Ukraine is a state with a potential for a successful start. Even nowadays, the international companies are successfully working here. In particular, well-known Korean ones. This is just the beginning of cooperation between Ukraine and Korea. Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Ukraine, Lee Young-Gu thinks so. 2017 is signifi cant in the cooperation of our countries. We celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. However, there is a common sad date too. 80 years have passed since the deportation of the Korean people from the Far East to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The deportees found rescue and new lives in Ukraine. There are about 30 thousand Koreans in our country nowadays.

Recently, during a meeting with the heads of leading Korean companies, the Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groisman, called for increasing investment in the Ukrainian economy. What real actions of our government are necessary for this?

– The Ukrainian government is taking the right steps to attract investment. Positive signals are the agreement on a free-trade zone between Ukraine and the European Union, introduction of visa-free regime with the EU was managed. In addition, 145 countries have visa-free travel with Ukraine. This is positively perceived by investors, »said the Ambassador, Lee Young-Gu. – The government has taken a number of ambitious decisions. In particular, they introduced electronic declarations. Ukrainian authorities are trying to move to e-government. Reforms are actively being implemented. In particular, the judicial one has been started. It shows certain stability. A positive climate and conditions for business and investment, including from Korea, are created.

посол Республіки Корея в Україні Лі Янг-ГуDoes the Korean business monitor these processes?

– Information is gradually reaching. Not as fast as it is wished to be. The main thing – it is positive. Eventually, this process will be faster. We are constantly having the meetings of delegations. So, in April, the Ukrainian-Korean Economic Forum was held in Seoul, and there were 3 forums in Kyiv last year. About 150 representatives of leading Korean companies visited your country. These forums are like a platform where our business gets information about Ukraine. In this way the investment climate and what the country is interesting for are understood better.

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What does Korean business complain about in Ukraine? What conditions should be improved?

– They are concerned about the fl uctuating currency rate most of all. Ukraine is still included in risk countries. This is a big investment barrier. In addition, there are diffi culties in obtaining loans.

What is interesting about Ukraine for your compatriots?

– I would distinguish the agrarian sector, digitalization, energy, logistics, hi-tech, medicine out of all fi elds. There is already a good experience in cooperation in electrical engineering. «Samsung» company not only sells its products in Ukraine. One of the largest R&D centers, where more than 600 IT specialists are involved, is working in Kyiv. «Samsung» is meticulous about workers and countries where such centers are opened. I talked to a company manager in Seoul. He highly appreciated the work of the Kyiv center. They will still be opened. It was similar in Kharkiv before the confl ict in the east.

We also have Korean companies Daewoo International and Hyundai. Why do other powerful companies not go to Ukraine as of yet?

– Daewoo is a global company. They deal with many industries. There are their representative offi ces in more than 120 countries. But fi ve of them are with highest priority. One of these strategic states is Ukraine. The company’s management highly values the development prospects here. The same applies to Hyundai. Others know little about Ukraine. When there is more information, the situation will change.

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посол Республіки Корея в Україні Лі Янг-ГуIn one of the interviews you talked about working on a general work plan of cooperation between countries. What stage is it at?

– The general work plan is the foundation. It will not be possible to quickly build successful relations between the countries without it. Together with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Aff airs, we will determine the format, timing and the way of its implementation. Now there are discussions about investment projects that it will help implement. Regular meetings and being in communication with governments, the private sector and mass media are needed. Financial platform is necessary too. There will be nothing without it. Both countries have to enclose their eff orts.

The whole world knows about the Korean economic miracle. Wherein is its peculiarity?

– I always proudly speak about the success of my country. However the fi gures speak on my behalf. There are three countries in Asia that have achieved GDP growth of more than 5% over the past thirty years. Eventually, the index was kept only by one – and this is Korea. Each country has its own bar of potential economic growth. We did more than we could and jumped over this bar. By the projections Korea will occupy the eighth place in GDP in world in 2050 and second in per capita gross domestic product. Only the USA is ahead of us in the Group of Eight. We surpassed all other countries at rates of economic growth.


What’s the catch?

– Look at the iceberg. Only a small part of it can be seen. The same is with the development of the country. The invisible part is the key to success. This is the spirit of entrepreneurship in Korea. We have it engrafted and strengthened. The heads of Hyundai and Samsung started from scratch and got the result.

Did business have government support at that time?

– President Park Chung-hee changed his mentality. We used to say, “I will not be able to.” And he arranged for it was said, “I can.” He changed pessimism to optimism. Then the state development began. Without changing the mentality nothing happens. There must be good values. They decide the destiny of personality, society and country. And this is not money. It is necessary to preserve and strengthen what you have. Patience is also needed. These factors should be major to any of the heads in charge. We do not say – the Koreans are the best. We are improving ourselves. We strive to overcome all disagreements. This is a question of survival and development. Developed economy and security are the keys to the independence for each country. And we are going to this.

Does Ukraine have the potential to achieve the same result?

– Yes, it does. Ukraine can have 10% GDP growth with its perspectives. It’s real.

What do you personally like in our country?

– Everything. Recently, my son has visited me. Most of all, he was struck by human kindness here. I agree with him. This distinguishes Kyiv from Paris or Los Angeles.

Interviewed by Alina Arhipova