Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun has said Korea and Bangladesh are set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and hoped that the Golden Jubilee next year would be a milestone year for the future of Korea-Bangladesh friendship and partnership.
“Cherishing the close ties we have earnestly cultivated for the past five decades, we will renew our commitment to each other and take a bold step forward together for a closer, deeper, stronger and brighter future,” he said in a congratulatory statement on the occasion of the 2022 Korean National Day.
The Embassy of Korea to Bangladesh hosted a reception on Sunday evening at Sheraton Hotel, in which Minister for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Imran Ahmad attended as chief guest. A large number of distinguished guests, including lawmakers, high government officials, foreign diplomats, senior journalists, leading businessmen and cultural activists, attended the event.
Speaking on the occasion, the Ambassador said Korea is a country with a long proud history that goes back to more than four thousand years. “We observe the 3rd of October every year as National Foundation Day, in the Korean language, Gaecheonjeol which literally means the day of the sky opening. It is the day the first kingdom on the Korean Peninsula, Gojoseon, was founded 4,355 years ago.”
He said he is very happy today that they could celebrate this day face-to-face with Bangladesh friends, members of the diplomatic corps and Korean expatriates in Bangladesh. It was quite a painful two and a half years that we could not do this due to the unprecedented worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. “While many of us may have suffered from the virus, I feel grateful that we are getting out of this long dark tunnel.”
However, he said, “it’s a pity that we still cannot lower our guards as the global community is yet again witnessing the freedom and peace of its citizens under threats. Use of force and aggression in an attempt to alter the status quo is endangering the lives of millions of innocent people. The whole world is suffering from the consequences.”
As this year’s UN General Assembly described, the world is at a watershed moment, Ambassador Lee said Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol stressed at the UN last week that the crisis confronting us will only be resolved when we stand firmly in solidarity to share the universal value of freedom and work together to uphold and spread our freedom.
The Korean Ambassador in his speech said once the great Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore called Korea as “the Lamp of the East.”
“The first Asian Nobel Laureate Tagore in 1929 dedicated a poem to Korean people who were at that time under the colonial rule of Japan. In his poem titled ‘the Lamp of the East’ he said, in the golden age of Asia, Korea was one of Asia’s lamp bearers. And that lamp is waiting to be lit once again, for the illumination of the East.”
Tagore’s poem gave great hope of freedom to the Korean people and finally Korea got independence in 1945. Overcoming the colonial past, Korea has become the real lamp illuminating not only the East but also the entire world.
“Korea today is the 10th largest economy in the world and the 7th largest trading country. Korea is the first country in the world to have made the transition from a recipient of official development assistance (ODA) to a donor nation. Korea is recognised as the most vibrant democratic country in Asia and the most innovative country in the world. Korea is an industrial powerhouse of the world with the largest production capacity in shipbuilding, display, semiconductor and mobile phones. In a nutshell, the great Bengali Tagore’s prophecy has been fully fulfilled,” said the Korean Ambassador.
However, he said it would not have been possible if it had not been for the support and assistance of the international community. The UN and sixteen countries sent troops to defeat the aggression of the communist North in 1950 and shed blood for the freedom of the Korean people.
“With the help of our allies and friends, Korea could have rebuilt its economy in just a few decades. With encouragement from the international community, Korea could have achieved democratic advancement. And it is why Korea is willing to pay back the debt we owe by helping other countries and contributing to the international community.”
Turning to Korea-Bangladesh ties, he said Korea and Bangladesh have enjoyed excellent relations in every field for the last 49 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1973. Korea has stood side by side with Bangladesh in its journey of remarkable socio-economic achievement since its independence, of which Korea is very proud.
Ambassador Lee Jang-keun said Korea and Korean companies have been with Bangladesh in the beginning, growing and thriving of Bangladesh’s RMG industry.
It is a well-known story that the partnership between Bangladesh Desh Garment and Korean company Daewoo Corporation in 1979 planted the seeds of the Bangladesh RMG industry. The first country-specific private Export Processing Zone, KEPZ established in Chattogram has been a symbol of Korea-Bangladesh business ties.
Korea is currently the fifth largest FDI investor in Bangladesh, more than 70 percent of Korea’s investment is in the RMG sector, he added.
Diversifying areas of cooperation beyond the RMG is one of the most pressing challenges. In this respect, he said “I am happy to witness that there are some noticeable and meaningful developments in the making in recent years. With a local Bangladesh company, Samsung Electronics is manufacturing most of its gadgets in Narsingdi.”
At the Kaliakoir Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park, he said local company Fair Technology is now preparing an assembly plant for Hyundai Motors. By the end of this year, Hyundai cars will be assembled locally.
On trade between the two countries, he said the bilateral trade reached a historic high in 2022 recording 2.3 billion US dollars. It is a very meaningful achievement as the bilateral trade volume has stagnated for almost ten years after it reached a peak of 1.8 billion US dollars in 2011.
On the front of development cooperation, he said Bangladesh has been one of the priority partner countries of Korean development cooperation being the 3rd largest recipient of Korean ODA.
In addition to the budgetary support of 150 million dollars to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Korean Government recently decided to significantly increase its development loans to Bangladesh from 700 million US dollars to 3 billion US dollars for the period of the next five years.
He said another important area of Korea-Bangladesh relations is the increasing number of Bangladesh expatriate workers admitted to Korea through the EPS, Employment Permit System. Every year on average 2,000 expatriate workers are newly employed in Korea, and the remittance they send back home reached 209 million US dollars in the 2019/20 fiscal year which made Korea the 12th largest remittance sourcing country.
This year the number of Bangladesh workers going to Korea has more than doubled and is expected to be almost 5,000. But the important thing is not just the number of workers or the amount of remittance but their Korean experiences are changing their and their families’ lives. “I recently met two ex-Bangladesh expatriate workers returning from Korea. Both of them are now running medium-sized companies,” said the Korean Ambassador.
“They are the living testimony of what Korea and Bangladesh friendship looks like. Undoutedly, these expatriate workers are becoming more and more unique and invaluable assets in taking our bilateral relations into a higher level,” he added.