Ambassador of Republic of Korea: We are capable of responding immediately and decisively to any provocation by North Korea -INTERVIEW

Lee Eun Yong, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Azerbaijan

© APA | Lee Eun Yong, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Azerbaijan

# 24 January 2023 13:14 (UTC +04:00)

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Azerbaijan Mr. Lee Eun Yong was interviewed by APA Group

– Mr. Ambassador, please share your opinion about the pace of development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the Republic of Korea, since the beginning of your diplomatic mission in our country.

– Visit of former Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun to Azerbaijan in 2006 and the visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Korea in 2007 and 2012 deepened the friendly relations between our countries. Korea and Azerbaijan continue the cooperation and the exchange of views in political, economic, and cultural spheres.

The Korean government has set a new national goal and diplomatic vision to become a Global Pivotal State (GPS) that contributes to freedom, peace, and prosperity, which is also being implemented. Cooperation with the countries of the Eurasian region, including Azerbaijan, occupies a very important place. The government of Korea, for this purpose, plans to promote mutual visits of Azerbaijani and Korean high-level state officials, and people-to-people communication, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation that contributes to the economic and social development of both countries in education, health, and infrastructure areas. We hope, as a result of this, the relations between our countries will develop further in the future.

– Azerbaijani government has organized visits for diplomatic missions operating in our country to our liberated lands from Armenian occupation. Have you visited our territories? Would you share your impressions with us about the Armenian vandalism which traces you witnessed during the visit, reconstruction, and repair-construction works carried out by Azerbaijan on liberated lands?

– I visited Zangilan and Gubadli regions during the tour organized by Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry on December 10, 2022. I got acquainted with the Zangilan International Airport during this tour and visited the first "smart" village built in Azerbaijan. Despite the fact that only two years have passed since the end of the 44-day Second Karabakh War, the achievements of Azerbaijan in a short period of time, such as the opening of international airports in Fuzuli and Zangilan regions, construction of the Fuzuli-Shusha-Lachin highway and smart villages are amazing. I felt the determination of the Azerbaijani government and people to try to return the internally displaced people (IDPs) as soon as possible through the reconstruction projects of the liberated lands.

– President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev addressed a congratulatory letter to the President of Korea Yoon Seok-yol on the occasion of the National Day of your country and activities of Korean companies in Azerbaijani liberated lands also were noted in the letter. Which steps are being taken to increase the workload? What kind of innovative experiences do Korean companies use in the reconstruction process?

– We are well informed that the project of reconstruction of liberated lands has been chosen as a national priority by Azerbaijan, your country rapidly implements this project and many Korean companies are also interested in participating in it. Korean Securo CO.LTD is exploring ways to participate in the construction of a 100 MW wind power plant in the Kalbajar and Lachin regions, Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport is interested in participating in the “K-city network” project (creating a smart city master plan and feasibility study) in Zangilan. Korean companies have excellent technology and competitiveness in the renewable energy sphere and the construction of smart cities. I hope there will be many opportunities for Korean companies to participate in reconstruction projects in Azerbaijan’s liberated territories.

– Which new steps are being taken for further expansion of trade turnover between our countries and to boost its volume?

– I would like to note that the volume of trade between Korea and Azerbaijan is still small compared to the potential for cooperation. The volume of trade turnover between the two countries reached its top in 2013 and amounted to $ 100-200 million, but a decrease was observed in these figures because of the drop in oil prices.

The volume of trade has started to grow again since 2018. Cars are the most exported products to Azerbaijan from Korea, which account for 23.8 percent of Korea’s total exports to Azerbaijan. B2B meetings between companies and diversification of trade products, promotional events are being held in order to increase the volume of trade between our countries. At the same time, ways of expanding practical cooperation are regularly discussed through Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation established by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy of Korea and the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan.

– Relations between our countries have been established at a high level in the educational sphere. Azerbaijani State Agency on Vocational Education regularly visits Korea. The vocational school was built in our country on the initiative of the Korean government. What other directions can your country cooperate with Azerbaijan in the sphere of education?

– Cooperation in the sphere of education between Korea and Azerbaijan is also being actively developed. Every year, the Korean government selects Azerbaijani students with high academic performance and sends them to Korea to study on a scholarship (6 people at the master's and doctoral level, and 1 person from the bachelor's level). In addition, the Dual Diploma Program (Bachelor's Degree) between Inha University and Baku Engineering University (BMU) contributes to the cultivation of high-performance global talents in Azerbaijan by giving students the opportunity to study at Baku Engineering University for three years and the last year at Inha University.

Two countries have been also exchanging young people within the framework of the "YouthExchange" international youth exchange program since 2008. Although the program was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Korean government plans to resume the project this year. We hope that the youth exchange between the two countries will actively continue from the point where it left off.

– Korea produces products for military purposes. Is cooperation with our country planned in this sphere, considering that Azerbaijan also has enough experience in this direction, and was there an exchange of views with the country's officials in this way?

– Korea's excellent technology in the defense industry with high price competition is actively entering the global market. Korea signed an export deal with Poland worth about $15 billion last year, including K2 tanks and K9 self-propelled artillery units, and FA-50 fighter jets. Cooperation with Azerbaijan in the sphere of the defense industry was discussed last year.

The chairman of the National Defense Committee of the Korean National Assembly Lee Hunseung and businessmen of Korea's Hanwha Aerospace and other defense industry companies also visited Azerbaijan and discussed cooperation between the two countries in the sphere of the defense industry. However, peace treatment must be concluded between Azerbaijan and Armenia in order for these discussions to give results. It is expected that cooperation between our countries in the sphere of defense industry will intensify if a peace treatment will be concluded soon.

– Are Korean and Azerbaijani officials planning mutual visits?

– The chairman of the Korea-Azerbaijan Interparliamentary Friendship Group Suh Byung Soo visited Azerbaijan as a special representative of the Korean President in August 2022. Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elnur Mammadov also visited Korea to participate in the 4th political consultation between Foreign Ministries. In addition, the exchange between all levels of society was actively carried out. Although there are no specific plans for the visits of the heads of state, the visits of foreign ministers, etc for this year. We plan to actively promote the exchange of high-level government officials between the two countries as the exchange of high-level officials has not been carried out for a long time.

– Have the issues of simplified visas or complete elimination of the visa regime between our countries been discussed due to the increase in the volume of trade between Korea and Azerbaijan?

– Mutual visits between peoples of our nations have slowed down due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and now such visits are increasing as Koreans' interest in Azerbaijan increases. We hope that the exchange between our people will increase even more after the conclusion of the agreement on the abolition of the visa regime. However, it requires in-depth discussions between the competent authorities of the two countries since there are many issues to be considered in order to cancel the visa regime.

– A meeting was held between the leaders of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the border area of the two countries in 2018. What are the prospects of dialogue between your countries? What steps are being taken to make the dialogue take place? I would like to know the attitude of official Seoul on this issue.

– Korean government will continue its efforts toward the goal based on principles and consistency to realize the goal of the North Korean policy "peace establishment on the Korean Peninsula through the complete denuclearization of North Korea". Our government will always be accessible to dialogue with North Korea and will cooperate with the international community to develop plans that could dramatically improve North Korea's economy and people's lives if North Korea were to pursue denuclearization in practice. We ask for Azerbaijan's continued support and interest in our efforts for the denuclearization of North Korea and peace establishment on the Korean Peninsula in the future.

– How the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests posed by North Korea are dangerous as described? How is Seoul prepared against this risk?

– The launch of an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles by North Korea which is being continued recently, is a serious risk not only to Korea but to all countries of the world and are steps that seriously violate the peace and security of the international community. North Korea’s such actions are a clear violation of obligations arising from the resolutions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council and there is a great need for a hardened and unanimous response from the international community. The Korean government is working closely with the international community to renounce North Korea's development of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and achieve denuclearization based on existing Security Council sanctions against North Korea, sending a clear message that the international community will not accept North Korea's provocations.

The Korean government is also working closely with its allies and closely monitoring relevant steps in preparing the process against North Korea's provocation. We are capable of responding immediately and decisively to any provocation by North Korea.