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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 17, 2009
Korea in Poland
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Ties Growing Stronger
June 17, 2009   
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Korea's ambassador to Poland Joon Jae Lee speaks to Ewa Hancock.

How would you describe relations between Poland and Korea?
This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Korea. During the past two decades, the relationship between our two countries has developed remarkably. Bilateral relations have been enhanced in various fields, such as politics, the economy, culture and education.

Dignitaries from the two countries have visited each other frequently. Presidents Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwa¶niewski visited Korea in 1994 and 2002 respectively. H.E. Roh Moo-hyun, the president of Korea, visited Poland in 2004. Last year, President Lech Kaczyński paid a visit to Korea and discussed how to promote friendly and cooperative relations with H.E. Lee Myung-bak, the current president. The prime ministers and foreign ministers have exchanged visits. It reflects the close relationship between our two countries.

Poland is one of the most important investment destinations for Korean companies. The geographical location of Poland in Central Europe is seen as a big advantage. Poland's supply of workers with a good educational background is an advantage in terms of investment by Korean corporations-the total volume of investment in Poland exceeded $1.2 billion in 2008.

The Korean Foundation, which is a government subsidiary organization, has supported the Korean Language Department at Warsaw University since 1996. Poles who graduated from the department are working actively in areas related to Korea. Its programs developed the skills of young professionals who will act as a bridge between Poles and Koreans in the near future.

Korea considers Poland one of the most important partners in Europe. There are many areas in which to cooperate with each other and the friendship between the two peoples has been enhanced steadily. I strongly believe the current cooperative and friendly relationship will be further developed in the years to come.

In which branches of the economy do Korea and Poland cooperate most closely?
Bilateral trade volume exceeded $4.4 billion in 2008, Korea exporting $4.1 billion to Poland and importing $307 million from Poland. Korea's main exports are liquid crystal devices, telephone sets, vehicles, monitors and projectors, optical cables and flat-rolled steel products. Korea imports items from Poland such as food products (meat/dairy), ceramic wares, automotive components and metals (copper). Trade imbalances occur because Korea's exports to Poland come largely from manufacturing facilities and parts exported to Poland to run Korean companies that have already invested in this country. Thus Korea's exports support Poland's industrial production and export.

Korea has invested $1.2 billion in accumulated actual investment terms by 2008. Its main investment fields are electronic displays (LG Display, Humax), white electronic goods (LG Electronics), chemicals (SK Eurochem, SKC) and steel parts (POSCO). Recently, the investments of the auto parts industry have been increasing around the Katowice area. In the Warsaw area, many branch offices of leading Korean companies including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors, KIA Motors and LG Electronics are working actively. In particular, Samsung Electronics established a research center in Warsaw, employing more than 400 young Polish engineers who graduated from the Warsaw University of Technology. The research center is a good example of cooperation between a Korean company and a Polish university to mutual benefit.

How satisfied are Koreans with the conditions for investment in Poland, in your view?
Korea's ever-increasing investment in Poland proves that Poland is one of the best investment locations in Europe. Korea has invested considerably in Poland to be able to tap into the European market with ease, utilizing the duty-free EU regime, the closeness to the main EU market and its excellent and abundant human capital.

Overall Korean companies are very much satisfied with the investment conditions in Poland, especially with cooperative government officials and big internal markets.

But the shortage of a qualified labor force and the road conditions have impeded the efficient operation of investment companies, blocking the realization of huge investment potential from Korea. Difficult and complex entry and residence procedures also have some room for improvement.

Can you give an example of a Korean success story in Poland?
After Poland entered the EU in 2004, LG Electronics expanded its investments here. LG Display started its investments in Wrocław in 2006, investing $220 million in 2006 alone, making Wrocław the center of its European LCD panel production. After LG Display, partner companies like LG Electronics, LG Innotek, LG Chemical, Dongseo Display, Dongyang Electronics and Heesung Electronics invested simultaneously-total LG Display-related accumulated investment is more than 4 billion euros to date.

LG Display produces mainly LCD panels for LCD televisions and computers. LG Electronics makes LCD televisions from the LCD panels made by LG Display. LG Display's production performance exceeded its output forecasts and produced more than 7 million LCD panels in 2008. It will produce more than 10 million LCD panels in 2009, supplying panels to companies in LCD TV-producing companies in Poland like Toshiba, Sharp and so on, and exporting to other EU countries.

Owing to LG Display, Poland has become the center of LCD television production in Europe, accounting for more than half the total LCD television production in Europe.

In 2000 Samsung established a Research and Development Center in Warsaw. Initially, the center employed a team of 10 programmers who developed software for digital television decoders. The project's success has led to systematic growth. In 2005, a new Digital TV Division was established and since then it has been responsible for developing software for digital equipment such as LCD and plasma televisions and projectors. The R&D center's products are sold to digital television operators worldwide. The main geographic area of activity is Europe and Central-Eastern Asia.

In 2007, Samsung opened its second R&D center in Warsaw, the Mobile Technology Center. Now more than 400 Polish specialists are working there and under the company's plans a further 200 people will be hired 2009-2012. The center is responsible for developing and testing software for the newest and the most technologically-advanced mobile telephones.

What kind of events are you preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Poland and Korea?
The Korean government is preparing various events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment diplomatic ties between the two countries. First of all, the first essay writing contest on Korean literature was held in May. In July, a Global Korean Products Show will be held at the Palace of Culture and Science. Over 50 companies representing Korea will participate in this event with their products. And the Korean Cultural Center will be opened in Warsaw this year as well. The Korean Cultural Center will hold diverse events, for example, linked to Korean culture and arts, tourism, sports and cooperation with Polish artists. We will prepare a Han-bok (Korean traditional clothes) Fashion Show, an Introducing Korean Food event and an Exhibition of Traditional Korean Craftwork Objects show, and so on. Also, displays of the traditional Korean martial art Tae-Kwon-Do will take place in Warsaw. Other events will be held in addition to those mentioned above. I hope that Polish people interested in Korean culture will participate in our events.

What do you hope to achieve during your posting in Poland?
My main mission here is to amplify mutual benefits for both countries. I will spare no effort for the further development of friendly and cooperative relations between our two countries. Given the dynamics of bilateral relations I am optimistic that they will continue to intensify. In the past few years it was Korean investment in Poland that was the most noticeable achievement of these joint efforts and served as a vehicle for further cooperation. Korean people are ready to share their technology and experience obtained during the economic development of their country with others. While I am convinced that economic exchange and investments will keep increasing, the time has come to advance to other fields, such as cultural exchanges. Korea is an unfamiliar country to many Polish people. To many, it is hardly distinguishable from other Asian countries. I would like to make Korea, with its long history and rich cultural heritage, more familiar and friendly to Poles.
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