Toespraak van de Prins van Oranje tijdens de wereldtentoonstelling EXPO 2012 in Yeosu, Zuid-Korea

18 juni 2012

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am most grateful for the government of the Republic of Korea, South Jeolla Province, the City of Yeosu for hosting and the Yeosu Expo Organizing Committee for organizing this wonderful Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea. The Netherlands is proud to take part in these Olympics of technology and development.

I am even more grateful for the theme you chose: the living ocean and coast. This is a theme that is very close to my heart. It is a theme that is of crucial importance for human development, as I am sure the world leaders meeting in Rio will forcefully underscore later this week in their final outcome document. And it is a theme that has united the Netherlands and Korea for many centuries. Because it was the ocean that brought us together.

For hundreds of years the Korean peninsula was relatively isolated. But in 1653, a group of Dutch seafarers were shipwrecked off the Korean coast. Thirty-six of them survived, amongst them the bookkeeper Hendrik Hamel. He lived in Korea for 13 years before being able to return home.

Hendrik Hamel remains one of the best-known foreigners in the history of Korea - every Korean schoolchild is brought up on the journal this minor Marco Polo wrote about his experiences; the first work ever written by a westerner about what was an unknown country to him.

So, in a way, Hendrik Hamel was the first to unfold a map of Korea in the West. And today we are here, in a very different Korea, to unfold a map of the Netherlands. To keep on learning from each other. And once again, the ocean and the coast are the connecting themes.

Our countries are different in many ways. But we have both learnt to live with water. Water as a friend, water as a foe. Korea has experienced serious flooding, and water-related disasters caused by typhoons or tsunamis. In the Netherlands, we too know the dangers of the sea. A third of our landmass is below sea level. The majority of our population - and our economy - is potentially at risk from flooding, from the sea or from the three major rivers that reach the sea through our country. So for us, living with water has always been a reality, a way of life.

In our Expo pavilion, we unfold for you the map of a country that has learnt how to keep its feet dry, in a way that is both informative and entertaining. We show you how we have managed to keep our delta a sustainable and thriving place to live.

For this is our common challenge, in view of the effects of climate change, urbanisation and increased concentration of economic activities in coastal zones. In the Netherlands, we want to create room for our rivers, so that high water levels can be absorbed without jeopardising the environment. In Korea, you are working along similar lines in the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. In the Netherlands, new land is being reclaimed from the sea to create more space for ports, industry and nature. You are working on the Saemangeum project. I have no doubt that there is much expertise and innovative power that we can share, to the benefit of us all. In Korea, in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the vast majority of the world's population lives and works in low-lying deltas.

The key element is not to fight against, but to live with water. Living and building in harmony with nature is the best way to ensure healthy cities with vibrant communities.
These are also key themes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, currently underway in Rio. In my work as Chairman of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), I have the honour to work closely not only with Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, but also with my fellow board member Dr Han Seung Soo. I also work closely with distinguished institutions such as the Korea Water Forum and the Green Growth Institute, and I am highly impressed by the leading role Korea plays in international water issues. This will culminate in the 7th World Water Forum, to be held in Korea in 2015.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, well over 100 countries are presenting themselves here at the Expo. Let us celebrate international cooperation on the important themes that Korea has so wisely chosen: the living ocean and coast. Blue growth, in order to achieve green growth for all!

But let's also not forget the common history that ties our two nations together through that very ocean. Almost 350 years ago this place - Yeosu - was referred to as Saesung, and it had 12 non-Korean inhabitants: all of them Dutchmen, including Hendrik Hamel himself.

Today, the whole world has come to Yeosu. And Korea has come to the world. This time, the Dutch are here to stay!

Thank you.