Dong Tae Kim (Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Korea)
It is my great honour to have the opportunity to speak at this historic gathering on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Korea.
Firstly, I would like to express my appreciation to the Director-General, Jacques Diouf, and to his staff for the efforts they have made in successfully organizing this event.
Mr Chairman, since the World Food Summit in 1996, we have all endeavoured to attain worldwide food security. However, despite our efforts, only about six million people each year have been relieved from malnutrition in developing countries.
Moreover, over 800 million people still have not been assured access to enough food. If this trend continues, we will not be able to achieve the objective set out at the World Food Summit of halving the number of the undernourished by 2015.
At this critical juncture, our gathering has indeed a very significant meaning. It is important to assess the progress on food security during the past five years and seek measures to accomplish the objectives of the World Food Summit.
Agriculture has evolved to suit specific conditions of a region or country such as the weather, soil and farm scale. For instance, the diversity of plants grown in each country is closely linked to the people's diverse dietary habits.
For world food security and sustainable agriculture, I believe each country should develop its own agriculture in accordance with its own conditions, while respecting the agricultural conditions of other countries.
The Asian financial crisis which occurred in 1997, clearly showed how vulnerable food security is to unexpected external shocks in net food importing nations. During the crisis, due to the depletion of Foreign Exchange Reserve and a credit crunch, Korea had great difficulties in importing foreign commodities. The sharp drop in imports almost exhausted the stock of imported products like flour and feeds, and this caused serious social unrest.
However, fortunately, we had no problems with the provision of rice, the country's staple crop, because we maintained an adequate level of domestic production.
Based on this lesson, I firmly believe that we need a preventive food security strategy. This means we need to maintain an appropriate level of domestic food production and stock to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. This strategy can contribute to fulfilling the objective of the World Food Summit to ultimately eliminate hunger.
Mr Chairman, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, as you well recognize, production activities of agriculture are not only directly related to food security but also contribute greatly to a country's economic, social and cultural welfare including environmental conservation, maintenance of rural communities and the preservation of traditional culture.
If we pursue trade liberalization based on the principle of comparative advantage, without duly taking into account the diverse role of agriculture, we will dampen the potential for the development of various types of agriculture in every nation. As a result, world food security could be negatively impacted in the long term.
Therefore, I am sure that sustainable food security will be better achieved by fully reflecting non-trade concerns of agriculture in the ongoing Doha Development Agenda negotiations.
Agricultural development can increase the income of farm household by increasing purchasing power and by providing more jobs, which in turn greatly improves the nation's economy. The eradication of world hunger and poverty cannot be achieved without development in agriculture. In this line, we all recognize that investment in agriculture is very important to attain world food security.
In reality, however, agricultural investment in many countries is lower in priority compared to other sectors.
According to a report by FAO, recent Overseas Development Assistance in the agricultural sector has been significantly reduced, along with the total amount of loans rendered by international financial organizations.
To expedite the attainment of our goal for world food security, additional financial resources should be mobilized. Yet, more importantly, in every country we should reconfirm our political will to raise agricultural investment to proper levels.
Addressing the issue of poverty is of most importance in realizing world peace in the 21st century. In a short period of time, Korea experienced rapid economic development and overcame poverty and hunger. Now, based on abundant experience and human resources, we are strengthening our assistance to other developing countries.
Such efforts have been made through the programmes of the Korea International Cooperation Agency, including the trainee invitation and the expert dispatch programmes. These activities will contribute to the improvement of food security in developing countries and also to regional development. Korea will continue to expand its assistance to other countries.
Today, we are here to reconfirm the true meaning of the World Food Summit that was held six years ago, which urged cooperation for world peace. Through this gathering, I hope we will be able to come to a shared recognition of the measures needed to achieve the goal of the World Food Summit 1996, make suggestions on how to accelerate progress and show our commitment in solving these issues.
I would like to conclude by saying that the Government of Korea will cooperate fully with FAO and other countries to realize a world where every single human being is free from hunger and poverty.
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