Esteemed Ambassador Kim Eun-joong, you started your mission in Romania in March 2016. What would be the highlights of your term since our interview last fall?
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bucharest has continued its efforts to strengthen the diplomatic, economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations. The visit of the Korean Foreign Minister, Yun Byung-se, to Romania, in February 2017, occasioned the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on the cooperation – at Foreign Ministry level – between Korea and Romania; this proves the firm willingness to further consolidate our bilateral relations, in this case through consultations via various government channels. In addition, our Embassy has contributed to reinforcing the economic links between the two countries by way of various business meetings and events, and its well-known KSP (Knowledge Sharing Program), a tool by which Korea assists partner states through policy research, consultation and capacity-building actions. This year, we concluded the 2016-2017 KSP Program – “Establishing of Romanian productivity and competitiveness center and the Elaboration and publishing of the Annual Guidebook for statistics on productivity”. For next year, we will support the 2018-2019 KSP program, which will deal with – “Knowledge Triangle (education-research-innovation) Foundation for Sustainable Competitiveness”.
Furthermore, this November, with the help of Romanian partners, we are working on organizing in Bucharest an economic event in the area of mergers and acquisitions, where we plan to invite several Korean companies that will have the chance to tap into the Romanian M&A market. This economic initiative, together with several Korean manufacturers of automotive parts and one IT research and development center, opened here this year, adds real momentum to facilitating the Korean investment in Romania.
Our Embassy is also actively involved in connecting both countries through diverse cultural and educational exchanges. Promoting diplomacy through cultural exchanges is an essential part of both international relations and the development of bilateral relations. My belief is that all events that we hosted and will plan to host in the near future manage to serve this purpose. Culture represents an indispensible go-between which binds people and society. In light of this, I believe that sharing culture among countries is of utmost importance for enhancing the mutual understanding between them.
With regards to the promotion of Korean culture in Romania, I am very pleased to observe the trend for constant growth. Since the first Korean drama was broadcasted in 2009, more Korean TV dramas have been aired throughout Romania’s TV broadcasting companies. More and more Romanians are studying Korean language in Universities and language centers across the country. I wholeheartedly appreciate this trend and the Embassy has provided tangible and intangible assistance wherever possible. I truly believed that this effort contributes to creating a friendlier atmosphere for the Embassy’s commitment to promote Korean culture.
I am also happy to mention the cultural events that took place throughout Romania this year: 2nd International Korean Speech Contest in Cluj-Napoca (1st edition was organized in 2016), together with Babes-Bolyai University. We organized in May the B-Boy performance “Marionette” in both Bucharest and Timisoara and we held the 2017 Taekwondo Ambassador’s Cup. Above all, we continued to support the K-fan community in Romania and made cooperative efforts to increase cultural interchange and planning cultural events.
Starting with 16th of October, the Embassy opens the Korean Cultural Week with the Korean-Romanian Friendship Concert which marks the National Foundation Day of the Republic of Korea. We are organizing Korean Movie Nights in Brasov and Bucharest and the 1st edition of the Korean Quiz Contest 2017. Of course, from the cultural events list, we will not miss the 2nd edition of the K-Lovers Festival, which will take place in December, this year. We are planning to hold more cultural programs and events for people to participate and enjoy, in the future.
Next year, Korea has the privilege to host a grand international sports competition, namely PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. I would like to invite all of you to this event, which will be held under the pillars of peace and unity.
What are your continued priorities in view of next year’s 10-year anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between the Republic of Korea and Romania?
Both the Republic of Korea and Romania agreed in September 2008 to launch the Strategic Partnership initiative, aimed at bringing their relations to new heights in the 21st century and beyond. Currently, my country is the first and only strategic partner of Romania in East-Asia, whereas Romania is our only strategic partner in Eastern Europe. It is against such a backdrop that our relationship continuously developed in various fields, due to the commitments made by both countries to step up joint efforts in enhancing the Strategic Partnership. As mentioned various times, the Strategic Partnership calls for vitalizing exchanges between the two countries; stepping up joint efforts to spread democracy; and bolstering cooperation in a variety of fields, including energy, construction of social overhead capital, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchange.
In order to maintain the Partnership’s growth momentum, our aim will be to improve and develop connectivity – a measure of strategic importance that will promote diversification in trade and investment between the two partner countries, as well as exchange of Korea’s development experience and know-how with a view to assist the socio-economic growth of Romania. This will be a key factor for expanding bilateral trade volumes for the coming years ahead.
Besides economic cooperation, we would also continue the path of promoting political dialogue and people-to-people exchanges through tourism, educational and cultural programs.
Both Korea and Romania have many things in common, as both went through a long history marked by difficulties and both managed to overcome their burdens and become responsible members of the international community. These historical similarities and sympathies that we share are the engine for enhancing the relationship between Korea and Romania.
How do you appraise the collaboration and dialogue with Romanian authorities in domains of joint interest, from the standpoint of bilateral interests but also of mutual support at international level?
As a result of constant and enhanced dialogue between various institutions and actors in both countries, based on the pledges made under the Strategic Partnership, in the recent period, the bilateral relations have been further strengthened.
Through our annual consultations, we keep dialogues moving forward and give more substance to our bilateral collaboration. As a result of inter-agency cooperation, we both managed to organize landmark events with political, cultural and business nature, as well as facilitating direct dialogue through government-to-government meetings and official visits to both countries. For example, this year, as I mentioned, we managed to facilitate the official visit to Bucharest of the Foreign Minister of Korea, and we benefited from the full support of the Romanian authorities.
Moreover, we offered our strong cooperation to the visit that the Association of Romanian Municipalities (AMR) made to Korea between April 5-10, 2017, where the Romanian delegation had fruitful meetings with government high-officials and other representatives. In addition, we hail the working visit to Korea (July 26-28, 2017) of the State Secretary for Global Bilateral Affairs, of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monica Gheorghita (a visit which focused on the bilateral cooperation in the field of IT); also, the Minister for Business Environment, Trade and Entrepreneurship, Ilan Laufer’s participation to the 7th ASEM Economy Ministers’ Meeting, which was held between September 21-22, 2017, in Seoul.
Due to such a future-oriented and mutually beneficial commitment under the auspices of the Strategic Partnership, both sides have further strengthened their friendly and cooperative relations not only bilaterally, but also regionally and internationally. They use various mechanisms and fora to consult closely with each other on bilateral, regional (Northeast Asia and the EU) and global issues.
One such issue is represented by the unprecedented escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula. Our concern that the nuclear program developed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea represents a serious threat to international security is fully shared by Romania, and together we engage in the efforts of the international community to negotiate a peaceful solution for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible manner.
Bilateral economic cooperation is very dynamic and the two governments, alongside the two countries’ private sectors, are closely collaborating to develop the joint agenda, by organizing economic missions and visits meant to make the collaboration opportunities known. What perspectives are there to attain the maximum potential of economic and trade relations?
First of all, it is meaningful to note that the economic and trade relations between the Republic of Korea and Romania are strong, promising and mutually beneficial. In fact, since the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1990, Korea’s accumulated investment in Romania amounted to almost $1 billion, based on 2016 statistics. Moreover, the annual trade volume of our two countries is approximately sixty times greater than that of 27 years ago. Looking back, during the last 27 years, both countries have made significant accomplishments. This is due to concrete steps taken, such as the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in 2008, Romania’s EU accession in 2007, the mutual complementary economic structure of the two countries, Romania’s geographical location and its geopolitical and geo-economic importance in Central and Eastern Europe.
Besides the aforementioned advancements, both countries have potential for further development in their economic relations and activities. The South Korean government is making efforts to tap the maximum potential of the two countries in various ways. In this regard, one of the most representative examples to strengthen the effective economic cooperation of our two countries is the Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP). KSP aims at sharing Korea’s development experience and know-how to assist the socio-economic growth of its partner countries through policy research, consultation and capacity-building activities. This will produce a synergy effect and mutual benefits for both sides.
In addition to that, the Korean and Romanian governments are working closely together to further encourage and promote business and commercial exchanges between the Korean companies and their Romanian counterparts. In recent years, about 230 Korean companies registered in Romania, hiring around 13,000 people in various fields, including automobile parts, electronic and electrical components, IT R&D, shipbuilding and so on.
Also, from a governmental perspective, Korea and Romania have shared their interest in supporting “a knowledge economy”, by helping organize consultation mechanisms such as Industrial Cooperation Committee meetings, business forums, both in Seoul and Bucharest – with the valuable help of the Korean and Romanian Chambers of Commerce and other public entities. This September, as stated earlier, at the ASEM economic ministers’ meeting in Seoul, the Romanian Minister of Business Environment was present.
Moreover, it is very important to note that the Korean companies are constantly expanding their presence here in Romania. To this extent, there are many promising areas for bilateral cooperation lying ahead of us; these include ICT (Information and Communications Technology), health and medicine, agriculture and energy. In particular, the fields of ICT and Health and Medicine can provide new opportunities for both countries to diversify and broaden their economic cooperation. Korea and Romania both have strengths in ICT, backed by a well-educated workforce. If Korean companies participate in the “Smart City” project carried out by the Romanian side, I am confident, that our two countries will realize a huge synergy effect and win-win outcomes for both sides. In addition, in the field of health and medicine, at the Korean government and private sector levels, the Korean side is ready to cooperate with the Romanian side to modernize hospitals and improve the public and private hospitals’ management system.
I truly hope and expect that both countries will continue to work closely together to convert each other’s great potential into reality.
What is your message for the Korean community in Romania on the occasion of National Day celebrations? What about your message for the Romanian community in the Republic of Korea?
As mentioned before, both Korea and Romania have made considerable progress in enhancing the relations in various fields. This was also possible thanks to the Korean community living in Romania and the Romanian community living in Korea, as they both actively played a constructive role in building a bridge between the two countries.
For the Republic of Korea, the National Day Reception represents the biggest annual event which marks the 4,349th Anniversary of the founding of the first kingdom on the Korean peninsula. Not only is this event a celebration of the very first kingdom ruling over the Korean Peninsula, but it also represents a special occasion for Koreans abroad to feel closer to their motherland. I extend to them my kindest wishes of joy, health and continuous success in their future endeavours.
Regarding the 2017 National Day celebration, we are holding tonight the Korean-Romanian Friendship Concert, which creates a bridge between Koreans and Romanians and contributes to the promotion of friendly relationship between two countries. I wish this year’s National Day Reception to be an event that soundly connects our two cultures. Tonight, in celebrating Korea’s Anniversary and its friendship with Romania, renowned Korean artists will enchant you with their voices and energy, well accompanied by the well-known Romanian violinist –Mr. Alexandru Tomescu. I welcome you all – both Korean people who live in Romania and their Romanian “neighbours” – to share your happiness through performances of talented musicians and singers alike, and wish this event could provide you all with good opportunity to deepen mutual understanding of each other.
What important projects does the Embassy have in what concerns the development of cultural and educational exchanges?
Both Korea and Romania are renowned for their long history and cultural richness. Therefore, a lot of cultural and academic exchanges are taking place between our countries, which further broaden the collaboration and friendship between our people. In Romania, I have noticed an increased cultural awareness about Korea which goes beyond music and dramas-which means that the Korean Wave has also sparked a general interest for Korean culture amongst young Romanians. Indicative of this are all of our events mentioned previously, which we either hosted or co-hosted.
In what regards educational exchange, we do encourage educational programs (such as universities and language programs in Korea), educational exchanges for Romanian students and support of knowledge sharing in order to create new ideas that can contribute to the human development of both societies. Moreover, we are promoting scholarship programs and working in cooperation with the Public Envoy for Korean Government Scholarship Program, to inform about Korean education, and raise participation of young Romanians to study in Korea. We have a goal to strengthen the global education partnership with Romania and foster responsible cosmopolitans capable of contributing to the development of global society.
In a nutshell, such dynamic human exchanges will put our partnership on a solid path in the 21st century and beyond, because they will greatly help our two nations to better understand and have greater interest in one another. Both the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bucharest and the Embassy of Romania in Seoul are working hard to make that happen.