According to the data, there is a great potential for strengthening Georgian-Korean cooperation - Kim Se Woong
South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea is the most developed country in East Asia, according to Human Development Index. Its citizens enjoy a very high quality of life; have the highest individual income and average salary in Asia, and the eighth largest family income in the world. The country is the world's leading healthcare quality and business simplicity among leading countries. It is also one of the leading places in terms of education.
Recently Georgian-Korean relations are evolving and which is due to the great contribution of the Office of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Georgia and the Mr. Kim Se Woong – Charged Affair of the Embassy.
We asked him to talk about the Georgian-Korean relations, and Mr. Kim Se Woong agreed to give us an exclusive interview.
Mr. Ambassador, you have just arrived in Georgia. What is your first impression?
Before I express my impressions about Georgia, let me tell you that 10 years ago I worked in Baku and I was able to see your beautiful country even before. Of course I have heard a lot about Georgia before. Most importantly, I knew Stalin, Georgian wine, natural products and natural resources. And it is important to note that In Georgia people are very warm and hospitable.
What's the difference between 10 years ago Georgia and today?
First of all, it's obviously a eye-opener, it is an economic advance and a noticeable increase in the number of visitors. According to the last year, it was about 8 million tourists, which is 2.5 times higher than the population of Georgia.
What can you tell us about the prospects of economic relations between Georgia and Korea?
To look at this issue in terms of economic cooperation, we cannot say that cooperation between the two countries is at the highest level. I want to say that according to the today's data is of great potential for strengthening cooperation. First of all, your country is a fast developing country. As you know Korea has been strengthened after the Civil War. Therefore, we are trying to help your country in economic growth. Of course, it is of interest to invest in the economy of your country. Recently, On behalf of the Government of Georgia, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia Mr. Otar Berdzenishvili and Mr. Lee Tae-Ho - Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the of the Republic of Korea, signed the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of Georgia in regards to the Economic Development and Cooperation". This Agreement is a Framework Agreement which defines the key principles for the allocation of loans to Georgia from the Korea Economic Development and Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Within the framework of the Agreement, the Korea Economic Development Cooperation Fund will be responsible for financing various projects in Georgia through Korea "Eximbank". It is noteworthy that additional agreements will be signed for financing each project within the framework of the proposed agreement, which will determine the financial terms of the loan. Consequently, this Agreement will facilitate deepening cooperation between Georgia and the Republic of Korea. Therefore, all this suggests that South Korea is ready to discuss all your proposals for strengthening bilateral cooperation.
Not only economic relations are also important for us, but we also pay much attention to the development of cooperation on the political level. As you know, in 2016 the speaker of the two countries met with each other and talked about deepening relations. In 2017 we celebrated 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in Tbilisi.
Which project will you outline in the field of cooperation in Georgian-Korean relations?
Of course, this is the project of the Nenskra hydropower project. The Nenskra Hydro Power Project project is the construction of the largest hydropower plant - in Georgia. The project will be implemented by JSC Nenskra Hydro, which was created in 2015 as a result of cooperation with the Korean Water Resources Corporation - K-Water (Investor) and JSC Partnership Fund. 280 MW Hydroelectric Power Plant will be distributed annually to Georgia at 1'200.00. Electricity will be supplied to the local market. Nenskra Hydro Power Project is being implemented BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) scheme, which envisages delivering free of ownership to Georgia in 36 years after entering the HPP. The HPP will start generating electricity from 2020, and the construction will be completed in 2021. Construction of Nenskra Hydro Power Plant is an important step towards Georgia's successful future, which will enable your country and population to improve energy security and improve local economic conditions. In addition, it should be noted that last year the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to 115 million dollars, which is 30 percent more than in 2017. Of course this is not a bad indicator, and we have the potential to increase our relationship. Also, the total volume of investments reached 40 million dollars and a 6 percent increase.
It is also a pleasure to see the potential of traveling between two countries. In 2017, for example, 7,2 thousand Korean tourists visited Georgia. Last year this figure was doubled and reached 13 thousand. According to the Georgian National Tourism Agency, this is the first result of comparison with other countries when the number of tourists doubled during one year. This fact indicates that the interest towards Georgia in Korea is sharply rising. And not only to Georgia. Everyone knows that Korean citizens love to travel too. For example, last year, 25 million people from around 50 million Korean nationals traveled to different parts of the world. One of the characteristic features of the Korean population is that they are looking for new and interesting countries and we can say that Georgia is in their one of the best interests.
Increasing the number of tourists in Georgia will also help to launch more air flights. Last year, three charter flights were made between Seoul and Tbilisi, and this year it will double. It is also possible to have the direct airline (Seoul-Tbilisi-Seoul) and negotiations are ongoing intensively between the respective agencies of the two countries.
How is the relationship between the two countries developing in the field of education?
Yes, as you know at the Free University of Georgia, there is a Korean language study section where 60 Georgian students are learning Korean. Of course they are willing to go to Korea and continue their studies in a Institute of Korea. Last year, the Korean Embassy provided a scholarship in Georgia and sent 3 Georgian students to study in Korea. Also, at least 3 students in Korea will be financed by our state in the current year. In addition, there is an International Center for Educational Studies at the Ministry of Education of Korea, which also accepts students from diffferent countries to continue their studies in Korea. We also have a Korean language academy that not only invites students but also sends professors and teachers in other countries to teach Korean language to the foreign students. Georgia has already reached an agreement that they will send a teacher this year, who will teach Korean to Georgian students at the Free University. The Korean professor will stay in Georgia for two years. We also have information that soon Korean Language coruses will be opened at the Ilia State University. All this points to the fact that Korea is becoming popular and the interest in the study of Korean language increases sharply in the field of history, music and traditions.
As for the cooperation in the field of culture, the relationship develops more fruitfully. Last year the Korean Culture Festival was held, and later Koreans working in Georgia (up to 120) held a music festival at the Free University of Georgia.
It is also worth noting that not only Georgians learn Korean, but Korean students also started studying Georgian language in Seoul. Otar Berdzenishvili, the Ambassador of Georgia to the Republic of Korea, has contributed greatly to this. He has organized these courses. It is welcome that relations between Georgia and Korea are becoming more and more evident. I hope these relationships will continue and the number of cultural events will increase sharply.
As for the current year's plans. What can can you tell us about it?
The round of political consultations will be held in Tbilisi in the current year and a high-ranking official will attend from the the Korean Foreign Ministry. In addition, in the first half of 2019, a high level visit will be held at the ministerial level.
At the end of our conversation, we can not finish the Interview without askin about the issue of denuclearization and peace keeping in the Korean peninsula. What does the Korean government do in this regard?
As you know, the next round of negotiations between the North and South Korean leaders is underway with the support of the President of the United States. We hope these meetings will continue for the year end too. All this suggests that the process of disarmament and peace keeping is irreversible and we are confident that we will achieve our ultimate goal of achieving the peace. I would also like to thank the Government of Georgia for its support to the peace process between South and North Korea. Of course, we support the territorial integrity of Georgia and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.
Interview prepared by Avtandil Otinashvili
Translated by Lika Kaladze