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S. Korea envoy exploring post-COVID trade initiatives

Korean ambassador
Korean Ambassador to Jordan Lee Jae-wan recently sat down in an exclusive interview with Jordan News (Ameer Khalifa/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Korean Ambassador to Jordan Lee Jae-wan recently sat down in an exclusive interview with Jordan News, and spoke on the popularity of Korean culture in the region, as well as bilateral relations and the aim to advance them further. اضافة اعلان

Diplomatic ties between both countries were established in 1962. Since then, relations have developed in many areas. In 2014, trade volume between the two nations reached $1.5 billion but fell by almost a third in 2019.

During the COVID-19 crisis, trade volume fell by an additional 11 percent. However, Ambassador Lee said that there was an improvement in the first half of this year, which he believes is a testament to the strength of the two country’s accord. 

“Fortunately, in the first half of this year, trade has increased by more than 20 percent. This is an indication of a speedy post-COVID-19 recovery and it’s good for both countries.

For example, our exports to Jordan have increased by 28 percent, and Jordan’s exports to Korea have increased by almost 15 percent,” the ambassador said. “So, I think that we need to focus on this area (trade recovery). To that end, I am considering holding regular consultation meetings between the Amman Chamber of Commerce and the KOTRA Office (Korea Trade Promotion Agency) in Amman to explore the possibilities of promoting trade and investment between Jordan and Korea.” 

Ambassador Lee underlined that working on economic cooperation is a top priority, along with furthering cultural relations. 

In 2019, the first direct commercial charter flight between Seoul and Amman was established, but with international travel at a halt during the pandemic, the route was put on standby.

Now with vaccinations underway and roughly 53 percent of South Korea’s population fully vaccinated, Ambassador Lee projects an increase in tourism. 

“Jordan has many beautiful tourist attractions like Wadi Rum, Petra, Um Qais, (and) wetland reserves in Azraq, and Jerash. There are many, not only the religious sites like the baptism sites and Mount Nebo,” he said. “You have many unique natural reserves. Many Koreans are interested in coming to the country to see the unique natural resources.” 

In the last 30 years, South Korea has provided almost $400 million to the Kingdom in the form of both concessional loans and grants.

The nine loans helped fund four wastewater treatment projects and a research and training reactor construction project. 

In addition to the loans, South Korea’s grant aid programs have funded 23 projects to combat poverty and support sustainable growth within the country.
 
In 2020, an $11.1 million donation by South Korea helped open three schools in Irbid, Mafraq, and Zarqa after Jordan appealed for international support. 

Ambassador Lee explained that this was South Korea’s way of returning what Korea itself received at one point in its challenging history. 

“My country started from scratch after the end of the Korean War in 1953. Of course we worked hard and studied hard because we don’t have any natural resources just like Jordan. This is why we have to invest in education for the next generation,” the ambassador said. “Luckily, we were very successful in achieving economic development in such a short period of time.” 

“During our economic development, without international assistance, we could not have done it. This is why we think that it is time to repay what we have received from the international community.” 

Ambassador Lee is confident in the future of the two countries and believes that any relations going forward will only improve.

He noted that young Jordanians are very much interested in Korean culture, especially Korean Pop, more popularly known as “K-Pop,” mentioning a regional YouTube fan account called “Mshaheer Kpop.” 

“It is so surprising to learn that the followers are almost 1 million. That proves that young Jordanians are very interested in K-POP and K-Culture. I hope that cultural cooperation will be promoted through mutual cultural exchange,” the ambassador said. 

“This past Sunday, October 3, commemorated the Korean National Foundation Day, a holiday that marks the foundation of the Korean Dynasty. During that date (2333 BC), the Korean people lived on the Korean Peninsula as one nation with the same history and culture,” the ambassador said. 

“Taking advantage of celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year, I hope Korea and Jordan work together to hold various events in music, art, … etc,” the ambassador added. 

He also took time during the interview to express his appreciation for His Majesty King Abdullah’s efforts to reactivate the peace process and promote peace in the region. 

“We always support a two-state solution in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law. Korea highly appreciates the tireless efforts and endeavors of His Majesty to reactivate the peace process. We really hope that a credible process can be resumed after genuine dialogue between both parties,” Ambassador Lee said.

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