Ambassador: Consistent reforms under President Aliyevs strong guidance serve as constant factors for Korean businessmen to have more interests

Exclusive interview of Azernews with Ambassador of South Korea to Azerbaijan Kim Tong Op


Question: Azerbaijan and South Korea strengthen bilateral relations developing in different areas of cooperation since 1992. What, in your opinion, is the main joint achievement for the years of cooperation and how do you assess the current state of relationship?

Answer: It is remarkable that our two countries made the conspicuous diplomatic achievements in such a short period of time. Mutual exchanges of high-level visits and a number of successful activities by Korean companies in Azerbaijan have continuously contributed to the expansion of bilateral relations. Trade volume has increased, and so do the cultural relations and human exchanges. We have also established regular consultation channels both in political and economic spheres at the deputy-minister level. Most of all, however, I would say that the official visit of President Roh Moohyun to Azerbaijan in 2006 and the state visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Korea in 2007 must be the most important achievements in our history of mutual cooperation since 1992. Both visits crowned the initial stage of our bilateral cooperation and launched higher stages of mutual understanding and substantial cooperation between our two countries.

Q.: So far, two countries enjoyed the advanced bilateral relations especially in economics. What results have been achieved in the economic relations and mutual investments between Azerbaijan and South Korea?

A.: Indeed, Korea and Azerbaijan have achieved great economic success. In 2017, the trade turnover between the two countries was $85.5 million, a number that has doubled within 11 months in 2018, and has reached $150 million. So far, Korea has invested $180 million to the Azerbaijan economy and there is a good potential for development of relations in the agriculture, education, healthcare spheres.

“The Framework Agreement on Grant Aid between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan” which was signed in Baku this month is one of our most remarkable joint achievements and will have a very positive impact on the further development of bilateral relations.

Q.: What about the activities of South Korean companies in Azerbaijan? What could you say about the cooperation between Samsung Engineering and SOCAR?

A.: I would like to stress the successful activities of Korean companies in the industrial, transport management, urban planning, architecture and other fields in Azerbaijan. Korean companies have successfully administered large projects such as the establishment of the Intellectual Transport Management System, the constructions of the Olympic main stadium and the “Azersu” main office building, and also the Sumgayit carbamide plant. We are witnessing numerous ongoing economic reforms, in particular in the non-oil sector, agriculture, customs and tax that are likely to make Azerbaijan a more attractive country to Korean companies. Currently, Samsung Engineering Co. completed the construction of the SOCAR Carbamide Plant in Sumgayit. I would like to stress that the launch will surely contribute to development of non-oil sector of Azerbaijan economy and it makes us proud to see Korean companies’ active involvement in recent ongoing economic reforms.

Q.: Azerbaijan with an excellent geo-strategic position in the junction of Europe and Asia could offer profitable transportation options to South Korea. What are your visions on the future of this interaction between the two countries?

A.: Nowadays, Azerbaijan restores its status as a logistic hub, as historically it has been an important part of the Great Silk Road, due to its favorable geographical position and ongoing big infrastructural projects. Currently President Ilham Aliyev strategically pursues the development of transport corridors together with the strategy of non-oil sector development. I think that Azerbaijan’s growing prestige in the region will further strengthen as the launch of BTK railway and the Alat Sea Trade Port promises an increase in investment and trade opportunities.

In this juncture, I would like to point up that our Government aims to reinforce cooperation with the Northern Region, including Eurasia. For this purpose, the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation was launched on June 2017 and it is actively pursues the cooperation projects. Taking into consideration that both Korea and Azerbaijan enjoy advancing economic relations, I believe that Azerbaijan and Korea will benefit from these opportunities in the future.

Q.: Finally, what can you tell us about the cultural and humanitarian ties between the two countries and what developments are expected in bilateral relations in the subsequent years?

Cooperation in cultural and humanitarian spheres is extremely important in a sense that it makes a solid basis of the longer-term development of bilateral relations. In this regard, the Korean Government has implemented a variety of cultural and educational projects to enhance mutual understanding in sustainable manner. Annually, the Embassy organizes or assists those cultural events like the K-Pop contest, Quiz on Korea contest in cooperation with Azerbaijan universities and Taekwondo Tournament Game for Ambassador’s Cup. The Korean traditional costumes exhibitions, Korean cuisine festival or Korean traditional music performances are also regularly held in Baku. Moreover, we make visits to the IDP settlements. Korean companies in Azerbaijan and social organizations like SEBA(Korea-Azerbaijan Cultural Exchange Association) also actively participate in this meaningful project.

It’s so fantastic to see that there are a lot of Korea-fans in Azerbaijan. Already in 1994, the Azerbaijan Language University opened Korean Language Department and in 2007 Baku State University established bachelors’ degree course of Korea Studies. Furthermore since 2011 Xezer University provides Korea language course and Nachchivan State University opened the Korea Center. In 2018, Korea Foundation piloted the Sejonghagdang school in Baku State University. Therefore, it’s no wonder that “Hansamo”(Azerbaijani Korea-Lovers-Network) has been formed and boast of more than 2,000 memberships.

The consistent reforms and the strategic development plan of Azerbaijan government under President Ilham Aliyev’s strong guidance serve as constant factors for Korean businessmen to have more interests.

I have every reason to expect that more Korean companies will try the opportunities in Azerbaijan not only in mega projects of construction, transportation and energy sectors, but in the non-oil and high-tech industries as well.

30.01.2019 10:20 / Hits: 158 / Print
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