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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » August 26, 2010
Strengthening Ties
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Strengthening Ties
August 26, 2010   
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Korea’s ambassador to Poland, Joon Jae Lee, talks to Ewa Hancock.

You have been in Poland for a year and half. What is your impression of the country? What have you accomplished since your arrival in Poland?
Before I arrived here, Poland already had a place in my heart as the native country of Pope John Paul II, who was a great leader not only for the Catholic Church but for the whole of humankind.

Poland is a country with a proud history, and now a key member of the European Union. I am well aware that Poland played a leading role in the collapse of communism in Central Europe, initiated by the Solidarity movement. I admire the Poles, who made a successful transition from communism to democracy in a peaceful manner.

Since my arrival in Poland in March 2009, I have made efforts to further develop friendly and cooperative ties between our two countries. Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Poland. During the past two decades, the relationship between our two countries has developed remarkably in various fields such as politics, the economy, culture and education.

High-level Korean and Polish government officials have frequently met on bilateral and multilateral platforms, shaping common policies of mutual interest. Lech Kaczyński, the late President of Poland visited Korea in December 2008. In July 2009, H.E. Lee Myung-bak, the President of Korea, paid an official visit to Poland, which upgraded our bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership.

In terms of economic cooperation, Poland is Korea’s biggest trade and investment partner in Central and Eastern Europe. The trade volume between the two countries exceeded $4 billion dollars in 2009 and continues to grow. Korea invested $1.5 billion in accumulated actual investment terms by 2009.

It is my strong belief that cultural exchange is also important for the development of our bilateral relationship. The Korean Cultural Center opened in Warsaw in January 2010 and we presented Korean costumes, dance and cuisine at the opening ceremony. I continue to make Korea, with its long history and rich cultural heritage, more familiar and friendly to Poles.

What similarities are there between the two countries?
It is said that Korea and Poland have similar mentalities despite the vast geographical distance between them. It probably stems from our similar geopolitical situation. Both Poland and Korea are surrounded by superpowers and we suffered invasions and occupations by foreigners in the past.

Poland made a successful transformation from the communist system to a market economy 20 years ago, and Korea made a remarkable leap in economic development from the debris left by the Korean War of the 1950s. Both countries managed to overcome hardships and now enjoy economic development and political stability. Despite the global financial crisis, Poland and Korea continue their solid development, recording positive economic growth in 2009.

Furthermore, both countries are very active in regional and international cooperation initiatives. Poland has played a leading role in Central Europe and in the international arena as a member of the European Union, NATO and the OECD.

The Korean government has adopted a “Global Korea” concept as a foreign policy initiative in an effort to respond to the changing world order. The “Global Korea” concept envisions an open, dynamic and advanced country that actively engages with and cooperates with the international community and contributes to enhancing global peace and joint prosperity, beyond the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Many Korean companies have invested in Poland. What brings them here?
Poland is Korea’s main investment partner in Central and Eastern Europe. A total of 120 Korean enterprises are currently operating in Poland. They have created more than 20,000 jobs for Polish employees. And there is still a lot more room for further development in this sphere.

Poland is very attractive for Korean companies as an investment location. From here they are able to tap into the European market with ease, taking advantage of EU rules, the closeness to the main EU markets and the abundant, highly-qualified human capital. In addition, Korean companies are well satisfied with the investment conditions in Poland, especially with the cooperative government officials and large internal market.

LG Electronics expanded its investments here after Poland entered the EU in 2004. In 2006 LG Display and its partner companies started huge projects in Wrocław. The total invested by LG Electronics, LG Display and their partners in Poland is $1.5 billion to date. Despite the recent global financial crisis, Korean companies’ investment in Poland continues to increase. Samsung Electronics invested more than $7 million in Wronki in April 2010 and LG Display increased its new production lines with large-scale additional investment in Wrocław.

In November Seoul will host the G20 Summit—the first Asian country to do so. What is the agenda for the summit and what would Korea like to achieve there?
The G20 Seoul summit is especially significant because it is the first time that a non-G7 country will be hosting a G20 summit. In dealing with various issues, Korea will play a bridging role between the emerging and advanced countries, particularly taking into consideration the priorities and concerns of the developing countries.

The first priority for the Seoul summit is to follow up on the important commitments made at the previous summits. In particular, Korea will work closely together with other G20 countries in strengthening the international financial system and ensuring the strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the world economy.

Also, for the Seoul summit, Korea would like to introduce new issues such as development and global financial safety nets, in which emerging and developing countries have a particular interest.

Focusing on economic growth, the development agenda of the G20 is expected to contribute to the balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy and complement international development efforts, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Financial safety nets will help mitigate the impact of foreign currency liquidity shortages, particularly on emerging economies, in the wake of major systemic, economic and financial shocks, such as those witnessed in the recent crisis.

Korea is mindful of the interests of the international community in the G20 process. Through outreach activities, Korea will explain developments in the G20 to non-members and strive to accommodate the views and needs of the wider global community in the deliberations of the G20. I believe that this will help make the G20 more relevant as the forum for dealing with important questions of the world economy.

In May last year Korea and the EU agreed to conclude a Free Trade Agreement. What do you think are the prospects for the conclusion of the Korea-EU FTA?
As you said, Korea and the EU agreed to conclude the Free Trade Agreement at the Korea-EU Summit in May 2009. I look forward to the formal signing and entry into force of the agreement this year. I note with satisfaction that, as our second largest partner in terms of trade volume and number one in terms of investment, the European Union as a whole is Korea’s most significant partner in the economic field.

The Korea-EU trade volume, which totaled $78.8 billion in 2009, accounts for 11.5 percent of Korea’s total trade, while EU investment in Korea during the same period accounts for 46 percent of the total inflow of investment into the country.

The Korea-EU FTA will serve as an important demonstration of the commitment by Korea and the EU to trade liberalization and an anti-protectionist stand in these times of global economic difficulties.

Moreover, I believe the Korea-EU FTA will also act as a springboard to enhance our bilateral cooperation, not only in terms of trade but also Korean investment in Poland.

What shape are relations between Poland and Korea in? How can they be improved?
Currently cooperation is working very well in the political and economic spheres. However, there are still lots of opportunities for further development of relationships. We will continue strengthening cooperation in a broad spectrum of areas including culture, science, education, sports and others.

Korea is a leading economy in North-East Asia, while Poland is a major country in Central and Eastern Europe. Our countries need each other. I would like to see Korea become Poland’s gateway to Asia and Poland Korea’s window to Europe through further enhanced partnership.

Given the dynamics of bilateral relations, I am optimistic that they will continue to intensify. In the past few years Korean investment in Poland has been the most noticeable achievement of these joint efforts and has served as 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 increasingly deepen, the time has come to advance to other fields, such as cultural exchange. I would like to make Korean culture, such as Korean cuisine, movies and music, with its long history and rich cultural heritage, more familiar and friendly to Poles.
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