Ambassador: South Korea ready to respond to any threat by North Korea in close cooperation with US - INTERVIEW
Q: What do you think of the current level of political relations between South Korea and Azerbaijan?
A: Our political relations stand very good over the last several years. We launched governmental political dialogue in 2016 where all the pending political issues are consulted and resolved. This year, the dialogue is scheduled to be held in November. Our two governments are very closely cooperating with each other in the multilateral area with every issue. I wish to express deep gratitude to the Azerbaijan Government for its solid support for the ROK Government in term of the North Korean nuclear threat.
Another important thing in political cooperation is exchanges of high level political figures. This year, H.E. Mr. Ogtay Asadov, Speaker of the Azerbaijan National Assembly visited Seoul last June and H.E. Mr. Park Joo-sun, vice president of the ROK parliament came to Baku this month. I would like to note the visits of H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General and H.E. Ms. Chung Hyun-bak and many other Korean high officials.
Q: Have the ongoing economic processes affected the bilateral trade? What about the bilateral trade turnover? How much did Korean companies invest in Azerbaijan over the last year?
A: Since 2015 when oil price plummeted, our trade turnover between our countries has been shrunken like in the trade relations with other countries. However, more important is that we are diversifying sources of economic cooperation and consolidating foundation for it. For example, our two Governments started the Inter-governmental economic cooperation council last year where we look back past of our cooperation and plan for the future cooperation. What we are doing for diversifying and strengthening our cooperation is that we have been organizing many business forms in many areas to increase the opportunities for our businessmen to meet each other and find together business opportunities. I am happy to witness some tangible outcomes from the processes. Some Korean pharmaceutical companies and agricultural product processors are keenly interested in producing their products in Azerbaijan.
As I mentioned in the last interview, I have very strong interests in introducing experiences in industrial development and combining our industrial advantages to have better chances to enjoy common economic profits.
Q: A number of projects are currently being brought forward for road transport of goods from Asia to Europe. Expressing its willingness to join this line, Azerbaijan is going to commission the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. How do you feel about the prospects of this project? Will South Korea benefit from this project via China in the future?
A: Of course, Korea will benefit from the project. I heard the test transportation of the Korean containers starting from China last year took just 10 days to arrive to Baku. This means a transportation revolution because a container from China takes longer than 40 days to arrive to Baku on the ship. I firmly assess that the new Silkway route will contribute for facilitating a lot trade activities and people’s exchanges between Azerbaijan and Korea. It is tantamount to the revival of the old Silkroad, which was a main trunk road for trade and cultural exchanges in Eurasian Continent. Starting the new Silkway route will promote not only our bilateral communication but also communications with other countries on its route in Eurasia.
Q: In your latest interview, you mentioned that during your tenure you would spare no effort to develop cultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and South Korea. What did you achieve in this area? What do you think of the current level of cooperation between South Korea and Azerbaijan in the field of education?
A: As I mentioned, cultural cooperation is most important in modern-day diplomacy. In particular, when we consider our common cultural background as Altaic language speaking nations, we can not emphasize enough the importance of cultural cooperation between our two countries. This year marks the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relation. In order to celebrate the meaningful year, the Embassy arranged 15 cultural events, small and large. Although every event is valuable for me, I wish to introduce you the great success of the Sori and Mugham Joint Concert which was held on 17 September at the Heydar Aliyev Palace. The best traditional music troupe came to Baku and Gabala to show the creme-de-creme of Korean traditional culture. I hope that my efforts to promote cultural exchanges between us leads to the enhancement of mutual understanding and cooperation between our two peoples.
Education is most critical factor in diplomatic activities for building a human bridge which connects our two peoples in a sustainable manner. Now, about 80-90 Azerbaijan students are studying in Korea and some Korean students are also studying in Azerbaijan. Many Korean university students are learning Azerbaijan language in a prestigious foreign language university.
Q: All hails the power of the Korean technology. Is it possible to apply the Korean technology in Azerbaijan in various fields?
A: I wish to sincerely advise to my Azerbaijan colleagues to take maximum advantage of their rich human resources for the future economic development. In this connection, I wish to highly appreciate Azerbaijan Government’s endeavors to diversify their industry after the decline of oil price. The success of the industrial diversification policy, I believe, is up to how actively and efficiently your Government induces and uses foreign investment and technology for your industrial development.
It is my opinion that the most prospective industrial areas in this country are medical service, ICT, agriculture, petrochemistry, education, tourism and transportation. We can share our experiences we obtained in the course of national development. We can benefit from it together for our peoples’ happiness and prosperity. I am doing my best to induce direct investments from Korea in above-mentioned areas. Good news is that many Korean businessmen are getting more interested in the Azerbaijan market. Our cooperation in fruit processing and medicine production are most active at the moment.
Q: Are the two countries making efforts for the development of relations in tourism sector? The visa regime between the two countries was expected to be facilitated. What is being done in this regard? Is it planned to launch a direct flight from Seoul in the future? Is it planned to launch a direct flight from Seoul in the future? If yes, to what extent will it be profitable?
A: I wish to tell you that the number of Korean tourists coming here has increased conspicuously in this year. This good accomplishment came from the common efforts of our two Governments: the Azerbaijan government eased their visa issuance procedure through e-visa system and arrival visa issuance system.
Korean tourists are deeply impressed by the beauty of Azerbaijan, warm hospitality of the Azerbaijan people and beautiful heritage items and grand landscape of Azerbaijan Caucasus. I expect the increase of Korean tourists coming to Azerbaijan leads to the wider and stronger cooperation between us in all fields.
I wish to establish no-visa regime for our two peoples during my term of office in Azerbaijan.
Q: Korean Eximbank has allocated a 251 million euro credit for the construction of SOCAR’s carbomide plant. How many amount of this fund was used and is any additional funding needed?
A: First of all, I am happy that Korea Eximbank allocated 500m euros, not 251m euros, for the construction of the important national project of Azerbaijan. According to my data, around 267m euros of the fund have been used so far. I expect that the project would be completed without any additional funding.
Q: How much is the share of Samsung in the mobile phone market of Azerbaijan, and if possible, can you please submit a statistics on the number and amount of mobile devices sold from 2016 or early 2017 up to now?
A: Unfortunately, there is no official data on the sale of mobile devices in Azerbaijan so far. However, I can say that Korean mobile phones are very popular in the Azerbaijan Market. I expect the Samsung Galaxy note 8 and the LG V30 will enjoy highest popularity with their newest design and functions when they come out for sale in a few months.
Q: What is South Korea’s stance on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
The Korean people share deepest sympathy with the tragedy caused on the Azerbaijan people. So, the Embassy has visited IDP villages every year to comfort the IDPs trapped in difficulties caused by IDP life away from their home towns.
This year I will visit settlement for IDPs from Zangilan region to share their people’s difficulties in an active participation of many Korean businessmen. Using this opportunity, I wish to express my utmost appreciation to Ali Hasanov, Chairman of State Committee for Refugees and IDPs and his staff for their selfless contributions to the Embassy’s activities. We have been holding the events over the last three years in Khojavand, Barda, Fuzuli and Bilasuvar regions.
I strong wish that the conflict could be settled in a short time through the concerted efforts of the international community based on relevant international practices and principles. I wish to urge Minsk group co-chairs to expedite the conflict resolve process.
Q: The world's attention has recently focused on the Korean peninsula. The intensification of ballistic missile tests by North Korea has caused to serious concern. These tests pose a serious threat mainly to the security of South Korea. What do you think of it?
A: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted a nuclear test in Punggye-ri, Gilju in North Hamgyung Province on September 3, 2017. The DPRK’s nuclear test following the launch of ballistic missiles and resulting in an explosive yield much greater than previous tests constitutes not only a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions but a grave and serious challenge to the peace and security on the Korean Peninsular and beyond. As such, the ROK Government strongly condemns this nuclear test together with all the members of the international community.
The DPRK’s reckless and irresponsible nuclear test which was conducted despite the repeated warnings of the ROK Government and the international community is a serious threat to the nuclear non-proliferation regime of the international community, thus increasing the cause of total destruction of the human world. This is the very reason why all the members of the international community should unite in their efforts to make North Korea come out to the path toward denuclearization and establishing solid peace on the Korean Peninsular.
It is needless to say that North Korea’s increasing nuclear capacity always comes with the more threat to the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsular and beyond. Based on a stalwart ROK-US alliance, the ROK Government maintains a robust readiness posture capable of responding to any threat by the DPRK in close cooperation with the US, and will maintain steadfast in safeguarding the lives of its people and the security of the nation.
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