Spain, Korea ready for 70 years of friendship in 2020
Serving in Korea for a second time, Spanish Ambassador Juan Ignacio Morro Villacian is witnessing how bilateral relations have prospered since 1994 when he was posted here for three years at the Embassy.
The bilateral trade volume surpassed the $5 billion mark, non-stop flights connect the two countries 11 times a week, and the number of Korean tourists to Spain increased fivefold to 490,000 from 2012 to 2018, during which the number of Spanish travelers to Korea more than doubled to 27,000.
With the influx of Korean arrivals, the Seoul government in January re-opened its consulate-general in Barcelona after closing it in 1993. This has expanded Korean presentations in Spain to four, including an embassy in Madrid, and honorary consulates in Bilbao, Seville and Valencia.
“Next year in 2020, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries and it will be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our ties and exchanges in all levels and among our communities,” Ambassador Morro said during a reception in Seoul, Oct. 10.
“This year it gives me special satisfaction as it is the first time I am presenting the event after my arrival to Korea,” he said.
The past 40 years, according to Ambassador Morro, have been the best of Spanish history, in political, economic and social terms.
Spain ranks at the forefront in areas such as democracy, freedom, equality and rule of law.
“Our country has strong institutions and a mature society,” he said.
He noted Spain is one of the world’s most plural and tolerant societies, serves as a global model for gender equality and inclusion, is committed to environmental protection and sustainability, and pushes to fulfill objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Adopted by the United Nations, the agenda replaces and expands on the U.N.’s previous road map, the Millennium Development Goals, that were adopted in 2000 to end poverty while ensuring prosperity worldwide.
In this context, “We are a great cultural power but also a modern country,” he said. Then, Ambassador Morro touched on Spain’s transportation network, such as the Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE) highspeed train, as well as infrastructure, engineering, clean energy, medicine and biotechnology.
The reception attracted ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps.
The Korean side was represented by Deputy Minister for Planning and Coordination, Son Myoung-soo, from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and Choi Sam-seob, honorary consul of Spain in Busan.
In his congratulatory speech, Deputy Minister Son assessed that Spain-Korea ties have grown continuously after they were established in 1950 and that their mutual interests have led to active exchanges.
He pointed out that the 70th birthday, called “gohee,” is considered a special occasion in Korea given that its people suffered poverty and had short life expectancy in the past.
“I hope that for the next 70 years, we will strengthen further our relations protecting our values and fighting difficulties together,” he said.
The latest government-to-government exchanges were Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee’s visit to Spain in January and a working holiday agreement that took effect in October 2018.
The working holiday agreement and the re-opening of the Korean consulate general in Barcelona, both serve as examples to “provide the basis to enhance the mutual understanding among the young people,” which Son said will “open up the future relations” between the two countries.
Ambassador Morro entered diplomatic service in 1992.
He worked in Korea from 1994 to 1997, before being posted to Russia for another three years.
He built his career as a consul in Geneva, counselor at the Spanish Mission to U.N., cultural counselor in China, deputy director general for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, and director general for the U.N. and human rights at the Spanish foreign ministry.
Spanish Ambassador to Korea Juan Ignacio Morro Villacian gives a speech during a reception to celebrate the National Day of Spain at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul in downtown Seoul, Oct. 10.