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Speech by SLW at signing ceremony of the Working Holiday Scheme between Korea and Hong Kong (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the signing ceremony for the Working Holiday Scheme between Korea and Hong Kong today (November 12):

Consul-General Mr Jun, distinguished guests and friends, ladies and gentlemen,

     May I extend a very warm welcome to you all at the signing ceremony of the Working Holiday Scheme between the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong.

     Korea is a growing tourist destination for Hong Kong people, thanks to its beautiful landscape, rich cultural heritage, pop culture and economic dynamism. Over 165,000 Hong Kong visitors travelled to Korea in the first nine months this year.

     There is indeed much interest here in Korea. This is vividly illustrated by two examples. First, local televisions are showing an increasing number of Korean drama series at prime times. Second, half of our 12 degree-awarding higher education institutions are now offering Korean language courses or degree programmes to quench the linguistic thirst of our students.

     I should cite one more popular and rather appetising example. That is, we all love kimchee and Korean barbecue.

     The Working Holiday Scheme between the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong therefore offers a golden opportunity for Hong Kong's young people to learn more about "the land of the morning calm", by living, working and making friends in Korea. Through exchanges in person, I believe that our youngsters will better understand not only Korea, but also themselves and their own strengths and weaknesses through the experiences they gain throughout their adventures.

     By the same token, Hong Kong can offer to young Koreans an attractive and vibrant cosmopolitan environment where the West meets the East, a can-do spirit and increasingly close economic integration with Mainland China. It is encouraging to note that some 660,000 Korean visitors came our way in the first three quarters this year.   

     We now have in place Working Holiday Schemes with Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Japan and Canada. And feedback from participants has been highly positive.  Specifically, more than 14,000 Hong Kong youngsters have benefited from their stay in those countries to experience foreign cultures. This is also true for the 1,500 young people who came to Hong Kong under the various schemes.

     It gives me great pleasure today to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, which marks the formal establishment of the Scheme between Korea and Hong Kong. I am sure that it will become an important channel for the young people of Korea and Hong Kong to get even closer together, deepen their mutual understanding, and strengthen the bilateral ties between the two Asian economies.

     Last but not least, I must thank the Consul-General and his colleagues most warmly for their kind assistance in bringing this very worthwhile Scheme to fruition.

     Thank you.

Ends/Friday, November 12, 2010
Issued at HKT 17:40


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