Spain, Korea ready for 70 years of friend­ship in 2020

The Korea Times - - EMBASSY ROW - By Yi Whan-woo yis­[email protected]­re­

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.

Korea Times photo by Yi Whan-woo

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.

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