By Korean Ambassador Santhush Woonjin JEONG
Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Annyonghasimnikka (Korean greeting)
I am the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka, Santhush Woonjin Jeong.
November 14th marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between Korea and Sri Lanka. I would like to celebrate the meaningful day together with Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan people.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977, our relationship has been robust. Korea and Sri Lanka have many common factors such as similar geographical location and historical experiences that have contributed to a deeper mutual understanding. As the Korean Ambassador, I have made numerous efforts to elevate our relations on in a whole spectrum of fields of mutual interest spanning political, economic, education, and cultural cooperation.
When it comes to development projects, I proudly introduce the major achievements made by KOICA, EXIM bank Korea in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka. KOICA has conducted numerous projects with pivotal strategic goals such as education, transportation, water resources, food, and agricultural development, and successfully elevating the development of Sri Lanka. I truly believe that as a reliable friend, Korea is a trustworthy partner of Sri Lanka to meet the current needs of national development. With these as momentum, the bilateral ties are expected to widen and deepen further in the coming years.
Sri Lanka is a priority official development assistance cooperation partner country and also one of the top five nations to benefit from its Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Sri Lanka is so precious to Korea. The investment in various ODA projects and grants benefitting Sri Lanka since 1987 exceeds US$ 900 million in a total of concessional loans through the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank). For instance, the Framework Arrangement enabling the Sri Lankan Government to obtain soft loans of a value of up to $500 million (USD) from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of the Korean Government was set up for the years 2020 to 2022. At the same time, the New Village Movement known as the Saemaul Foundation in Sri Lanka and KOPIA has achieved success in developing rural livelihood through meaningful initiatives implemented in Sri Lanka.
I believe that deepened economic engagement is important to harness synergetic opportunities in trade and investment. Sri Lanka is strategically valuable considering its geopolitically significant location, abundance of natural resources, and skilled human resources. Korea's capital and state-of-the-art technology will be complementary to create the perfect synergies for our two countries to advance bilateral economic cooperation. The trade volume between Korea and Sri Lanka has increased by 30-fold since its establishment of diplomatic ties in 1977. Korea was one of the biggest investors in Sri Lanka in the 1990s. Like the Korean journey towards economic development, well known as the ‘the Miracle on the Han River’ of Korea, I would like to witness Sri Lanka work ‘a Miracle on the Kelani River’ in the near future. Challenge is another chance. It is now time to realize the untapped potential of this beautiful country and achieve our common economic goals together. KOTRA in Colombo, a specialized agency for commercial ties, is working very hard to consolidate our bilateral economic cooperation.
The ongoing labour cooperation is a very important aspect of our bilateral relations. Around 25,000 Sri Lankan workers are presently employed in Korea, contributing to economies of our two countries. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they have transmitted around 520 million USD annually to Sri Lanka in 2019. The EPS centre in Colombo has contributed to the facilitation of migrant employment and promotes the bilateral labour relations. Sri Lankan employees in the Republic of Korea are a great asset to strengthen economic and commercial ties of both countries.
Cultural cooperation is also a key pillar of our bilateral cooperation.Korean dramas, movies, music and cuisine have attracted a global audience including Sri Lankans. I thank all Sri Lankans for your interest and enthusiasm shown for the Korean culture, cinema, dramas, and cuisine. In commemoration of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Sri Lanka, the Korean Embassy organized a series of special cultural events like the Korean Lantern Festival, Quiz on Korea, K-pop World Festival and Korean Ambassador's Taekwondo Championship, Korean Film Festival and the Virtual Tour to Korea 2022. The love and support shown by Sri Lankans for these events is a source of great motivation and encouragement for the Korean Embassy. I hope that you will continue to stand with us and promote the Korean culture. Of course, I would like to make more efforts to promote cooperation between our two countries in the fields of movies, dramas and culture.
Reflecting on the growing interest in the K-wave among the Sri Lankan people, Korean language has been officially adopted as a foreign language in the advanced level curriculum from last year and students can sit for the Korean language examination in the university entrance examination by 2023.The Sri Lankan Education Ministry’s proactive initiatives to adopt the Korean language are well appreciated and commended by Korea.
I also mention that Korea has been a friend of Sri Lanka in its hour of need.International cooperation and solidarity were key factors to overcome global challenges that the world faced. Korea made utmost efforts to join the global efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as a responsible member of the international community. The Republic of Korea has stood in solidarity with Sri Lanka to help strengthen the government of Sri Lanka's national response to the pandemic. Under the “stay strong" campaign, Korea has been a friend indeed in times of need, by donating around $3 million worth of equipment to combat the COVID-19 virus in Sri Lanka in the last two years.
I believe that the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations will be a great opportunity for our two Asian nations to redouble our efforts to attain regional peace and prosperity. Korea is one of the most significant countries which can assist Sri Lanka in realising the vision for its future. I look forward to the next 45 years to make our bilateral relations more prosperous and productive.
As the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea like the meaning of my Sri Lankan name "Santhush," I would like to carry happiness to Sri Lanka. I love Sri Lanka. I love Sri Lankan people. On this occasion of celebrating this important milestone, on behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of Korea, I take this opportunity to wish every success, peace, and prosperity to the government and the friendly people of Sri Lanka. I will closely work with all of you to achieve our common goals. Once again, I appreciate all of you for extending your best wishes.
Thank you. Isthuthi. Nandri. Gamsahamnida! (Korean thankfulness)