On the Path of Growth and Development
In 2012 the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations
In 2012 the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea mark
the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations
Mr Ambassador, the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea are marking the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. This is a good reason to review the achievements and plans for the future. What stage have their relations reached?
I would like to remind the readers of the magazine that the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea were established on 10 February 1992. Five years later, in 1997 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko paid an official visit to our country. In 2007, Belarus’ Prime Minister visited Korea.
Apart from the visits of the highlevel government officials there was an active exchange of business and parliamentary delegations between the two countries with the focus on cooperation projects in economy, security, law, culture, science and technology. Therefore, the bilateral relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea have been successfully developing
They, who made the first step, are halfway through, an eastern saying goes. The establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries has fostered not only political contacts but also economic, scientific and cultural relations. The bilateral trade between Belarus and Korea has been growing year to year. It is worth mentioning that high-tech goods constitute the greatest part of the bilateral trade. The two countries have been cooperating in electronics, optics, IT, nuclear power and other leading economic sectors. Why are these countries so interested in each other? What have they already accomplished since the establishment of the diplomatic relations and what are their prospects for the future? KANG WEON SIK, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Belarus, answers these and other questions of the Economy of Belarus Magazine.
in various areas, which resulted in over 20 intergovernmental agreements.
A 20-year-old individual is considered to be an adult. Therefore I believe that the relations our countries have built over the past 20 years are quite mature and solid. They have reached such a stage when concrete results and mutual benefits are clearly seen. Moreover, taking into consideration the vast economic potential of the two countries, we can say that every year we will become more interested and valued by each other, especially since Belarus is now part of the Single Economic Space.
How successful from your point of view are BelarusKorea economic ties? Is there room for expansion?
The trade between the two countries has been constantly growing and approximated $200 million in 2008. In 2009, due to the economic crisis it fell to $126 million. In 2010, the bilateral trade grew to $164 million and in 2011 it reached $197.7 million.
The Republic of Korea exports to Belarus cars, electric household appliances, computers, electronic components, synthetic, plastic and other chemical products. The Belarusian exports to Korea include semiconductors, optics, optoelectronics, fiberglass and fiberglass cloth, potassium fertilizers. As we can see from these lists the core commodities are high-tech and science-intensive goods.
However, I believe that the bilateral trade is not big enough given the trade and economic capacity of the two countries.
Taking into consideration impressive economic accomplishments of our countries we can state that today’s trade between Belarus and Korea is not big enough, to put it diplomatically. On the other hand, economic successes of both the countries will contribute to the rapid development and expansion of the Belarusian-korean cooperation in the future.
What can you say about the sci-tech cooperation between the two countries which is
becoming a priority in the entire world?
Our sci-tech cooperation has been advancing quite well. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Korea and the State Committee for Science and Technology of Belarus have been strengthening their ties. There is a constant exchange of academic delegations to discuss current and future cooperation opportunities.
The Belarusian National Technical University, the leading technical university in your country, has been actively cooperating with Korean education and research organizations. In 2011, the Belarusian-korean Sci-tech Cooperation Center was opened at the BNTU high-tech park.
I would like to note that the Ministryof Economyandknowledge of the Republic of Korea has been financially supporting various joint projects as well as promoting professional exchange between Korean and Belarusian companies, universities, research centers.
I hope that in the future all the advantages that our countries have in the sci-tech field in the public and private sectors will foster our mutually beneficial cooperation.
As we all know, Mr Ambassador, Belarus has launched the construction of the nuclear plant. The Republic of Korea has the fifth largest number of nuclear reactors in the world. Can this experience be of any use to Belarusian specialists? Have our countries been cooperating in the area of peaceful uses of nuclear energy?
First of all, I would like to note that Belarus’ decision to renounce the Soviet nuclear weapons program after the country became independent as well as its non-proliferation activities can serve as a good example for other countries, including North Korea. The Republic of Korea has been closely cooperating with Belarus in a number of atomic energy issues.
Indeed, we have gained rich experience in the field. Like Belarus, the Republic of Korea has limited natural resources. Due to the lack of energy sources our country had to resort to the peaceful atom, one of the most powerful and effective sources of energy, in order to keep up the economic development.
Nuclear energy helped meet the economic needs of Korea more effectively. Today the country runs 21 atomic reactors and as you said it has now the world’s fifth largest number of reactors. Electricity generated by nuclear plants accounts for 36% of the total electric power consumed in Korea.
We have gained rich experience and expertise in construction of nuclear plants and their safe operation. These advantages have been essential for exporting Korean atomic reactors which are considered to be among the safest in the world.
I am aware of the fact that this year Belarus starts construction of its nuclear power plant and Russia was selected as the nuclear reactor supplier. However, to ensure efficient and stable operation of a nuclear plant all kinds of facilities and equipment are needed. Therefore I believe that our countries can establish cooperation in the infrastructure development and personnel training for the nuclear plant.
Let’s talk about business contacts and cooperation. In particular, representatives of what Korean companies have been operating in Belarus and will their number be growing?
Today Belarus has representatives of such leading Korean companies as LG and Samsung. A well-known automobile producer Hyundai Motor Company has also been operating in Belarus. I can say that Korean goods are no strangers to Belarusian consumers.
The interest of Korean business in your country is growing due to its accession to the Customs Union and Single Economic Space, which gives Belarus a number of geopolitical advantages.
It goes without saying that before coming to another market one has to gain full understanding of business operation there, to learn about all the peculiarities of the national taxation legislation, property right guarantees, etc. Some steps have already been taken in this direction. In particular, the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), one of the leading Korean research institutes in this area, has published a book dedicated to the economy, industry and investments in the Republic of Belarus.
I believe that by doing that Korea has been laying a foundation for promotion of the Belarusian market among our companies. The embassy of the Republic of Korea will also do its utmost to attract Korean
investments in such promising economic sectors as machine engineering and electronics by disseminating information about favorable business environment, excellent infrastructure and regulatory framework of the Republic of Belarus.
What do you think has to be done to boost the mutual trade?
To increase the trade between the two countries we need a set of measures promoting voluntary arrival of private companies to the market of the other country. In particular, I would like to reiterate that the more information we disseminate about a country’s economic and production capacity, the more clearly private companies will be able to project their future revenues and profits.
Our embassy is making its contribution to this process. We have provided all the necessary support to the delegation of the Korean Importers’ Association during their visit to Belarus which resulted in a memorandum of understanding with the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I think that the mere fact that representatives of this organization that accounts for 80% of the total imports of the Republic of Korea visited Belarus is very significant.
At a Belarusian-korean business seminar held during the visit the parties conducted negotiations on import and export of lubricant and engine oil, polyethylene fiber, wood, dry milk, dairy products, etc.
The embassy cannot disclose the plans of private companies, but I can say that the Korean businessmen who attended the seminar were quite pleased with the results of the negotiations. I think that it opens good opportunities for boosting the business cooperation and trade between the two countries in the future.
I can also say that the embassy will continue stimulating and supporting the exchange of delegations both at the level of government officials and private sector.
Can you tell us more about the visits planned for this year between Belarus and Korea?
The greatest number of visits will deal with sci-tech cooperation. In particular, the Chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology of Belarus and head of the High-tech Park will visit Korea upon the invitation of the Korean Foundation. During the forthcoming meetings, the parties will discuss plans for further bilateral cooperation with Korean research institutes and companies.
I would like to note that our embassy intends to actively promote exchange programs between various government agencies of Belarus and the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge as well as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Korea.
This year the embassy also plans to hold Korean-belarusian consultations and a session of the joint committee for economy, science and technology. Apart from that, visits of representatives of cultural and academic circles of the two countries will be held at the governmental level.
I believe that the active exchange of visits makes a significant contribution to the development of bilateral relations and promotes understanding between the two countries.
Belarus’ export items to Korea include semiconductor and optical devices, laser equipment, glass fibers and glass fabric, potash fertilizers
The Korean Language and Culture Center was opened at the Minsk State Linguistic University