The Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Belarus H.E. Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas visited South Korea to hold the 5th meeting of the Joint Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea which takes place every 2 to 3 years.
<Power Korea> met him alongside H.E. Mr. Andrei Popkov, Ambassador of Belarus in Seoul, at Lotte Hotel Seoul on Monday, September 3rd.
From the very beginning till the end, I could not help feeling that Mr. Dapkiunas was rather like a man of great speech or a humanist activist or a missionary of peace or all of these virtuous values well mingled together within his character.
But then it is not surprising if you know the fact that he has served for the largest world peace and humanism organization called the ‘United Nations’ for a long time most notably as Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN.
It is also worth mentioning his emphasis, which he made time to time during the interview, that a bilateral relationship between two countries should be a relationship that promotes ‘mutual benefit’ rather than one party asking for a help and the other responding.
Below is the interview Q&A. I extracted core parts of the answers Mr. Deputy Minister gave faithfully (due to page allowance). I hope this Q&A will deliver our readers a glimpse on Belarus-South Korea relations and a business opportunity for those who are seeking a promising new market in Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
Q. What is the purpose of your visit to South Korea?
A. The main purpose of the visit is holding the 5th meeting of the Joint Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Korea. It is an intergovernmental bilateral meeting which takes place every 2-3 years. Representatives of various government bodies from both Belarusian and Korean sides participate in the Joint Committee.
The main goal of the meeting is to comprehensively analyze the matters of the ongoing Belarus–Korea cooperation in the fields of trade and economy, science and technology, ICT, investment, education, etc., as well as to discuss ways of enhancing and expanding bilateral contacts in promising areas, and set new objectives for the future.
In addition to the Joint Committee meeting, we are going to hold together with the Federation of Korean Industries and other business associations the second event, which is Belarus–Korea Business Roundtable where we are going to present the opportunities of cooperation with Belarus for the Korean business community.
I believe that the visit of the Belarusian delegation to Seoul will be productive and its outcomes will be mutually beneficial.
Q. It has been 26 years since Belarus and S. Korea tied diplomatic relations in 1992. What do you think the two countries have achieved for the last 26 years politically, economically and culturally?
A. Our political cooperation is marked by regular contacts between government officials, good ties between the parliamentary cooperation groups. Two countries have developed a substantial legal framework.
Throughout these 26 years our countries have established stable economic ties. We believe that our cooperation in trade and economy has a strong potential. Bilateral trade is full of high-technology items from both sides, including, for example, supplies of Belarusian semiconductors to the Korean producers of automobile electronic devices, optics, and lasers.
In May, 2017 Belarus–Korea Investment and Economic Forum was held in Seoul. Belarusian delegation was headed by the Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus Mr. Semashko. The representatives of Belarusian ministries and leading manufacturers took part in the event to acquaint the Korean business community with economic potential of our country, advantages of cooperation with Belarus, as well as a number of promising investment projects.
In May this year Belarus–Korea Business Forum was held in Minsk with the support of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BelCCI) and the Korea Importers Association (KOIMA).
Cooperation in science and technology, ICT areas is a strong foundation of our bilateral ties. Belarus-Korea IT Cooperation Center was opened in Minsk in March 2017. A few IT-projects on digitalization of Belarusian economy and other improvements of e-governance systems in Belarus have been launched within the Center.
In April, 2017 the 2nd Joint Belarus-Korea Committee on Science and Technology and Belarus-Korea E-Government Cooperation Forum were held in Seoul and Minsk respectively. During these events several agreements on cooperation in the field of ICT, science and technology were signed.
South Korean corporation “SK Hynix”, one of the largest Korean manufacturers of memory chips, has opened its own R&D center in the Republic of Belarus which functions as a resident of the Belarusian High-Tech Park.
As you can see, Belarus and Korea are mutually interested in strengthening of the high-tech cooperation. High-tech is one of the most promising directions of bilateral cooperation to meet the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Q. Belarus seems the most importance gateway connecting Far East Asia to Europe through Russia. And the Moon Government’s ‘Northern Policy’ sounds very promising to generate many major projects connecting the regions in the future. Is Belarus preparing or pushing forward any plans regarding this?
A. Belarus is striving for lasting and constructive relations with our neighbors and all the friendly states and welcomes the initiatives aimed at deepening collaboration and integration in Eurasia as a whole.
Belarus is a founding Member State of the Eurasian Economic Union. Our country supports the well-weighted proposals for laying the foundation for economic, industrial and investment cooperation between the EAEU and the Republic of Korea.
We believe that New Northern Policy that is carried out by the Government of the Republic of Korea will give an additional momentum to Belarus–Korea partnership and will contribute to enhancing bilateral political contacts and collaboration within the international organizations.
I am convinced that the Korean initiative is able to add much value to the co-prosperity of countries on our continent through mutually beneficial cooperation.
Q. I learned about your recent introduction of 30 day visa-free travel for 74 countries including S. Korea. What might be the background of this visa-waiver?
A. Initially Belarus introduced 5-days visa-free regime in February, 2017. This step was made in order to facilitate all kinds of people-to-people exchanges, make Belarus more popular for business and tourism.
In 2018 the positive outcome of this step has become evident – we have watched a rapid increase in the number of visits from all over the world and the decision has been made to prolong visa-free period of stay up to 30 days.
About 25% of Korean nationals who visited Belarus in 2017 used the opportunity of the visa-free travel.
We believe that such measures as simplification of visa procedures, introducing opportunities for visa-free travel are important steps towards concluding visa waiver agreement with the Republic of Korea. This agreement will ensure further growth of the number of bilateral contacts in various areas of Belarus–Korea cooperation.
Q. Lastly, non-governmental exchanges are as beneficial as government ones. Is Belarus or S. Korea currently running any such programs (ex. exchange student, cultural exchange, etc.)?
A. Belarusian and Korean universities have been cooperating for many years. Leading Belarusian and Korean universities maintain exchange programs for students and professors. The center of the King Sejong Institute has been functioning at the Belarusian State University since 2014.
This year in August two delegations of the representatives of Korean universities visited Belarus to discuss the prospects of cooperation in the field of science and education with Belarusian counterparts. Such visits are the most vivid evidence of mutual interest in broadening cooperation between academic communities of our countries.
Talking about cultural exchanges I want to mention regular participation of Belarusian vocal and dance groups in the annual “Seoul Friendship Festival”, concerts of the Korean performance groups organized in Minsk with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of Belarus. Korean opera singers take part in the Minsk International Christmas Singing Competition. Belarusian dancers participate in the Korea International Ballet Competition.
We recognize a significant role of cultural exchanges in strengthening bilateral relations and promoting better understanding between Belarusians and Koreans.
Maybe in the future we will work on establishing center of Belarusian culture and language that will encourage Koreans to learn more about Belarus. Taking this opportunity I would like to invite interested cultural organizations and universities to think about this idea together.
김종관 기자 firstname.lastname@example.org