4 aprilie 2015. „Sunt companii coreene care au investit mult în România şi vestea bună că investiţiile cresc de la an la an.” Declaraţia îi aparţine ambasadorului Coreei de sud, care a luat hotărârea ca în timpul misiunii lui să dezvolte cât mai mult relaţiile reciproc avantajoase dintre ţările noastre. Luca Niculescu a mers la reşedinţa sa din Bucureşti şi a discutat în amănunt aceste planuri.
The South Korean Ambassador: “Bucharest and Seoul are very close partners”
“Korean companies have invested a lot in Romania and the good news is that investment is growing each and every year”. This statement belongs to the South Korean Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Park Hyo-Sung, who decided that during his mandate he would develop the mutually beneficial relations between our countries as much as possible. He talked about his future plans, exclusively for Digi24.
Luca Niculescu: For Romania, South Korea is a strategic partner. There is a Strategic Partnership signed between our countries, so can you please tell me how important the latter is from a political standpoint?
Park Hyo-Sung: I think it is important not only for us, but also for Romania. And as you can imagine, both countries, since the establishment of the diplomatic relations 25 years ago, had sort of a watershed moment by signing the Special Partnership Initiative back in September 2008. I think this is a very comprehensive paradigm which covers all areas of our bilateral relations. And since then, we have strengthened our bilateral relations in all areas, including the political, economic and cultural fields, among others.
In the political area, specifically responding to your question, I think Bucharest and Seoul are very close partners in this area as well. And both countries, I mean, both governments are actually engaged in various consultation mechanisms in order to enhance the level of mutual understanding, support and cooperation.
Luca Niculescu: Why is it important for your country to have Bucharest as a partner, here in Eastern Europe?
Park Hyo-Sung: Romania is a very big country. I think it’s No. 7 in the European Union. Also, Romania, as you know, Romania’s strategic location - also Romania’s economic, geo-economic location - is very good. So I think there are many, many areas where both countries can enhance this bilateral relationship.
Luca Niculescu: Romania and Korea have very strong economic relations, we are talking about commercial exchanges of over 1 billion US Dollars per year. Despite this, there is a huge growth potential for these exchanges, but how can this be done effectively?
Park Hyo-Sung: I think our bilateral economic and trade relations are very strong, promising and mutually beneficial. And you are right! When it comes to bilateral trade, our bilateral trade has increased more than 6 times over the past 14 years from less than 200 million dollars in 2000 to more than 1.2 billion dollars last year.
And I think we have a lot of, huge potential for expanding this bilateral trade relationship. For example, our bilateral trade has increased 50 times since our countries established diplomatic relations 25 years ago. So, if you ask me, am I confident that our bilateral trade will double to 2 billion dollars in a very short period of time? My answer is. Absolutely! And I want to let your viewers know that Korea is Romania’s No. 2 export market in Asia, only after China.
And I look at it, I tell you about something – what is going on with regard to our promising economic relationship, that is, Korean companies have invested a lot in Romania and our, Korea’s investment in Romania currently amounts to 600 million USD. And the good news, it is growing each and every year as evidenced by a number of Korean firms, I mean, a number of new Korean firms that have started their operations since last year. Thus, our bilateral economic and trade relationship is very strong, promising and mutually beneficial.
Luca Niculescu: Mr. Ambassador, as you already stated, this year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Romania and Korea. How will that be celebrated?
Park Hyo-Sung: Yes. Make no bones about this! Both governments are working hard to make the most of the Silver Anniversary with a view to substantially strengthening, both in depth and in breadth, the Strategic Partnership in all areas, including the political, economic, cultural and academic spheres, among others. I would say that we have some pretty good ideas.
And secondly, both sides are trying to broaden the horizon of mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and support through a variety of activities. For example, our Embassy is going to host a lot of K-pop events, Korean culinary/cuisine introductory classes and Korean film festivals throughout the year. And also, we are working very hard to facilitate visits by economic and trade delegations between Korea and Romania.
Thirdly, both sides are also working hard to finalize a number of bilateral agreements that are now in the pipeline.
Luca Niculescu: Let’s discuss a series of political issues now, about South and North Korea, because the two countries have been divided since the end of the Second World War. In a joint conference two months ago, Madam President of Korea stated that she is ready to take part in negotiations unconditionally and my question is when do you foresee a summit between North and South?
Park Hyo-Sung: OK. I think this is a very good question. But we don’t know yet. In order to find an answer, I think it’s better for me to give some background for your viewers. As you mentioned, unfortunately, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula. And as you know very well, last year, the world celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is a powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War. But still, still, this unfortunate, deplorable situation, I mean, the continued division of the Korean Peninsula, is going on today in Korea. So, this is a very unfortunate situation, not only for us, but also for the international community.
As you mentioned, our President in her New Year’s press conference in January this year, she actually urged the North to stop hesitating any further and to accept our genuine calls for dialogue aimed at discussing all kinds of issues pending between South and North Korea. And also exactly, I just wanted to talk, our President also wanted to talk about various projects of reconciliation, including the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.
Luca Niculescu: Yes, regarding the reunion of families divided by this war, what is your forecast for this year?
Park Hyo-Sung: It is hard to say. As I mentioned, it takes two to tango! So far, even if we proposed all those ideas and initiatives to North Korea, unfortunately, North Korea has not yet responded in a forthcoming and constructive manner. But the thing is… Make no mistakes! The scenes of those families being reunited, broadcast nationally and internationally, were always so emotional and heartbreaking that it was really hard to stop the tears welling up in our eyes.
So this is why our government asked North Korea to make family reunions “regular and routine”, free from political tensions and because, you know, this is absolutely not a political or ideological issue, but a humanitarian issue.
Luca Niculescu: You are Ambassador in Romania, therefore I will ask you something about Eastern Europe. How does Korea view the situation in Eastern Ukraine, for example, how important is this issue for you?
Park Hyo-Sung: I think that in this closely interconnected world, one could argue that the crisis in Ukraine may have serious security and economic repercussions and implications for the wider regions, including the Korean Peninsula. So, this is why, since its very beginning, our Government has made it very clear that important principles of the international community, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity, should be respected while seeking a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine in a swift and peaceful manner. Thus, this is why it is important. It has still implications for countries like Korea, even if Korea is far away from Ukraine.
Luca Niculescu: I know you have a problem in Korea, we also have it in Romania. Many people, having received a very good education in American or British Universities, upon returning home fail to find employment. How can this problem be solved?
Park Hyo-Sung: This is a very difficult question not only for us, but also for other countries right now. We also find it very hard to find, I mean, create job opportunities for college educates.
And how Korea, the Korean Government can address this issue?
I think we believe that there are huge mismatches between young Korean job seekers and the actual job markets, in three ways. In three ways, our government is trying to address this issue. No. 1: Job Mismatches, No. 2: Skills Mismatches, No. 3: Information Mismatches.
Luca Niculescu: I have one last question for you. Because you are Ambassador in Romania, you are interested in promoting tourism in our country among Korean citizens. Which are the main attractions in Romania that they wish to visit? Dracula’s castle? Something else?
Park Hyo-Sung: Yes, I think there are many tourist attractions in Romania. I actually visited several cities, particularly Brasov, Timisoara, as you mentioned, the Bran Castle, and Constanta. These are very good tourist attractions, but if the infrastructure is more improved, it’s better for tourism, not only for Korean, but also for foreign tourists to gain access to many tourist attractions in Romania.
And everywhere I went, and anywhere I went, I was able to meet with very friendly and warm-hearted Romanians. And I think this is another attraction for foreign visitors to take into account when they visit Romania. So, I can say Romania has a lot of - in terms of - attractions. As Ambassador to your great country, I will try to promote Romania as one of the best tourist destinations.