“It is a great honour and privilege for me to get the International Prize “Person of the Year” in Ukraine. I feel strong responsibility and commitment, because Ukraine is expecting a lot from the Republic of Korea. I mean both – my responsibility and responsibility of the whole Korean Embassy in Ukraine. We got the prize together – me and the Korean diplomats working here in Kyiv”
Be so kind to inform us about the start of the bilateral cooperation between our states?
– The diplomatic ties between Ukraine and Korea started in 1992, on the 10th of February. Last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.
What are the priorities for cooperation between Ukraine and the Republic of Korea?
– We develop all the spheres of cooperation – economic, political, and humanitarian. However, I would like to highlight the economic cooperation as a top priority in our bilateral relations. Ukraine has a great economic potential and Korea can become a reliable partner in this sphere. It is the economic cooperation that can expedite the development of relations in other spheres as well.
What do Korean people know about Ukraine?
– Nowadays, Korean people have much more understanding about Ukraine. We need to understand your country more and more and I hope that this process will continue with the assistance of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Korea. At the same time, I think our Embassy and Ukrainian government should work closely in that direction. We call it public diplomacy.
We still have a lot of work to do because I think Ukraine is still underrepresented in Korea, as well as Korea in Ukraine, so we need to keep working. We understand that Ukraine is more Europeoriented and our country is more oriented to the Pacific Ocean Trade Zone and that is very natural I think. However, Korea could be a very good partner for Ukraine because we have similar challenges and a complimentary national character. I think we have to put more eff orts to develop tourism between the both countries.
You have been honoured this year by the national Ukrainian program “Person of the Year”. How do you feel about this award?
– I did not expect to be a winner of such a prestigious prize. It is a great honour and privilege for me to get the International Prize “Person of the Year” in Ukraine. I feel strong responsibility and commitment because Ukraine is expecting a lot from the Republic of Korea. So this award symbolizes great responsibility for me as well. I mean both – my responsibility and responsibility of the whole Korean Embassy in Ukraine. We got the prize together – me and the Korean diplomats working here in Kyiv. Such award is like an impulse for us to move forward. Sometimes it can be very tiring to bridge and to constantly develop the bilateral ties for connecting the both governments. It is not an easy task. So thanks to this award I feel very refreshed to continue moving forward for the sake of the both nations.
What was your first impression of Ukraine and its people?
– You know Koreans and Ukrainians have a lot in common. Of course, the differences come in mind at first, but still there are lots of similarities. Ukrainian people are very kind and friendly. They are more friendship-oriented than business-oriented. In the same way Korean people highly value friendship, trust, confidence and human values. Some people appreciate business and profit more, but for the majority of Koreans and Ukrainians human values go first. Sometimes, Korean people are too much outspoken and sociable, so another common feature is sociability.
Do you travel a lot around Ukraine?
– Sure, I have visited all the key regions of your country, such as Lviv, Vinnytsia, Odessa, Dnipro, Kherson, and Zaporizhia. As I have mentioned before, we pay a lot of attention to the economic cooperation. We are interested in Ukrainian agricultural sector and industry, we would like to invest more in the production sphere of Ukraine, and such cooperation requires deeper knowledge of your country.
What do you like most about our country?
– Most of all I like your capital – Kyiv. It is a wonderful city. You know, I like going for a walk from my residence to my office, and during the weekend sometimes to the Trukhaniv Island, which is a very quiet place where I can relax and enjoy nature. There are only few cities like Kyiv and not only in Europe.
Now Ukraine is suffering through the hard times. What would you like to wish the readers of our magazine?
– In fact Ukraine is facing challenging times, but you have a lot of achievements to be proud of. Korean people and Ukrainian people have one more common characteristic feature – they are demanding too much from the government. Most of the Ukrainians are not happy with the achievements so far, but despite the challenge you have achieved a lot within the last 3 years – moving in the right direction, introducing right policies, becoming more transparent and mature. I think your people are very civilized – I heard that over 1 million IDPs moved to Kyiv and the city managed it very well. I think you need to be more patient and more proud of your nation, and also you need re-orientation.
20 years ago Korea faced the Asian financial crisis, more than 2 million people lost their jobs, and some of the Korean oligarchs went bankrupt. During that time many reforms were made. We have suffered through all these hardships and became stronger. Sometimes we need some kind of a shock therapy, a different orientation to move forward. And I want to wish Ukrainian people to have confidence: don’t be afraid of crisis and challenge, since they can be a disguised blessing.