Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the celebration of Korean National Day and the opening of the Korean Art Festival, 26 October 2021


Ambassador Yeondoo Jeong,


Mr Balkenende,

Dear Guests,


How wonderful it is that we can actually come together again.

On an occasion such as this; something that we have all been looking forward to for the past year and a half.

And the reason for us all being here today makes it all the more of a special occasion:

The – delayed – celebration of the Korean National Day and the opening of the Korean Art Festival.

Here in the Kunstmuseum.

Which opened its doors in 1934 as the ‘Haags Gemeentemuseum’.

The last building to be designed by the great Dutch architect, Berlage.

A design gem and a temple dedicated to the arts; a museum cherished by The Hague.

Just as we cherish our warm and close ties with the Republic of Korea.

Ties which date back to the days of Jan Janszoon Weltevree and Hendrik Hamel.

Hamel was the best-known Dutchman in Korea until the arrival of Guus Hiddink in the year 2000…

Our countries established diplomatic relations six decades ago, in the year that I was born.

And perhaps that was why a well-attended exhibition of Korean art was held in that same year, 1961.

And it was held here too, in this same museum.

With the organisation of the Korean Art Festival at the Kunstmuseum in this jubilee year, we have come full circle.

That I may be here with you today, is a great honour for me personally.

In a previous role, as Mayor of Amstelveen, I already had the pleasure of meeting members of the Korean community in the Netherlands.

I was invited to attend a graduation ceremony at the Korean School, for example.

That was in 2010, the year before I had the privilege of visiting Korea.

Leading a trade delegation from the Amsterdam region.

A visit that I still vividly remember.

The Korean hospitality, enterprise and culture made a lasting impression on me.

As did the tragedy of the divided Korean nation.

It was in that same year too, that I visited a remarkable museum here in The Hague for the first time: the Yi Jun Peace Museum on Wagenstraat.

A place where the history of Korea, the Netherlands and The Hague comes together.

How could I have guessed that I would be back again more than a decade later?

But then as Mayor of this beautiful city of The Hague.

And that I would again be so warmly received by Mr Lee Kee-Hang and his wife Mrs Song Chang-ju.

And so for me too, personally, the circle is complete.


Ambassador Yeondoo Jeong,

Korean friends,

The history of Yi Jun is closely connected with the birth of The Hague as international city of peace and justice.

With the Peace Palace as its symbol, with its first stone laid during the 1907 Peace Conference.

The marble floor in the main hall of that building is inlaid with an inscription which reads:

‘Sol iustitiae illustra nos’- Sun of Justice, shine upon us.

My sincere wish is that one day everyone on the Korean Peninsula, including those north of the military demarcation zone, may be warmed by the rays of that sun.

Living in peace, freedom and prosperity.

Thank you.