By Ambassador Santhush Woonjin Jeong
Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Annyonghasimnikka (Korean greeting)
I am the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka, Santhush Woonjin Jeong.
14th November 2021 marks the 44th 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. Based on this mutual understanding and trust,our two countries have been continuing to establish solid cooperation in various fields such as agriculture, fabrics, culture, automobile industry, labour cooperation and become key partners in the fields of economy, trade and investment.
Since my arrival as the Korean Ambassador to Sri Lanka last year, I have made numerous efforts to elevate our relations on multiple spheres including education, labour cooperation, public health cooperation, ODA support, trade relations, cultural development and environmental collaboration.
This year has been remarkable in the field of education. Thanks to the growing interest in Korean language among the Sri Lankan people, Korean language has been officially adopted as a foreign language in the advanced level curriculum from 2021 and students can sit for the Korean language examination in the university entrance examination by 2023. This progress has been well backed up by conducting an online capacity building programme for Korean language teachers in the advanced level classes.
Korean language education has led to more job creation.I am glad that the Korean government recently decided to resume the entry of new Sri Lankan workers and workers from other foreign countries to Korea very soon. 23,000 Sri Lankan workers are presently employed in Korea, contributing to the economic advancement of both countries. They have transmitted around $520 million to Sri Lanka in 2019. The Korean government applies the rule of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ to all the workers, regardless of their nationality. 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.
Since last year the public health cooperation between Korea and Sri Lanka has been robust and strengthening anti-COVID collaboration under the “Stay Strong” campaign initiated by the Korean government. In terms of anti-COVID support, the Korean government provided test kits worth of $300,000 in 2020. This year, in partnership with UNICEF, the Korean government donated USD230,000 worth of anti COVID-19 face masks to Sri Lanka and $500,000 worth of anti-COVID-19 items was donated to Sri Lanka. The strengthened public health cooperation and successful vaccination drive in Sri Lanka have shown positive results will fewer number of COVID-19 cases reports.
Sri Lanka is one of Korea’s priority ODA cooperation partner countries. The sum of investment in various ODA projects and grants for Sri Lanka since 1987 is over 600 million USD. Korea Exim bank, entrusted by the Korean Government, has provided Sri Lanka with loans worth of around USD 900 million since 1990. We hope to further deepen our ODA collaboration with each other.
The trade and investment between Korea and Sri Lanka continue to become an important pillar between our two countries. In 1980-1990s, Korea was the largest foreign investor in Sri Lanka. Korea has considered Sri Lanka as an important economic, trade and investment partner.
In 2020, the volume of exports from Sri Lanka to Korea has increased 10 percent from USD 100 million in 2019 to USD 110 million 2020. This increase is an exceptional case amid the worldwide economic depression due to COVID -19 pandemic. Korea is extremely keen on boosting two-way trade and investment in ways that benefit the economies of both countries. Like Korea’s economic miracle, so called ‘The Miracle on Han River,’ I strongly believe that Sri Lanka will also be transformed to “The Miracle on Kelani River.” I believe that it is the right time for Sri Lanka to change and take a leap to a higher level. Korea can help Sri Lanka achieve its goals. Korea will be with Sri Lanka as a reliable friend in this journey of achieving economic prosperity.
Cultural cooperation in strengthening ties between the two countries. To encourage cultural relations, despite COVID-19, the Korean Embassy has successfully organized various cultural events such as K-pop world Festival 2021, Korean Speech Contest, Ambassador’s Cup Taekwondo Championship and the virtual tour to Korea. Also, Korean Embassy recruited Korea-Sri Lanka SNS supporters 2021 in recognition of the expanding role the youth plays in promoting people to people exchanges between our countries.
I believe that the 44th 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 hope that more Korean companies and tourists will arrive in Sri Lanka to seek business opportunities and to enjoy the charm and beauty of the island.
Throughout many years, Korea and Sri Lanka have maintained their close relationship. Like my Sri Lankan name “Santhush” which means happiness, Korea would like to share happiness together with Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan people. I reiterate my sincere willingness to do my best to upgrade our bilateral relationship. As our diplomatic relations come into its forty fourth year, we should take the opportunity and overcome shared challenges, to bring the Korea-Sri Lanka partnership for a mutually beneficial cooperation to a new height.
Once again, I would like to felicitate the 44th anniversary of our diplomatic establishment together with Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan people.
Let's stay strong together. Korea and Sri Lanka Live Together!
Thank you. Isthuthi.