#DiplomaticCentennial Republic of Korea Ambassador: We have invaluable opportunity to accomplish denuclearization - a dramatic turnaround in world history

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea in Bucharest, Kim Eun-joong talked, in an interview granted to AGERPRES, about the "invaluable opportunity" to accomplish denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula, to the benefit of the entire world.

The statement comes in the context of the upcoming North Korea - South Korea summit starting Friday.

"We are being given an invaluable opportunity to accomplish denuclearization, the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the opening of a path toward common prosperity in the two Koreas. If the inter-Korean summit and a U.S.-North Korea summit take place one after the other over the next two months, it will be possible to expect consequential changes. Our success will make a dramatic turnaround in world history", the South Korean diplomat highlighted.

He claims that the total denuclearization of the Peninsula will "depend on whether we can seize this opportunity."

Furthermore, Kim Eun-joong emphasized that the priorities of the summit that starts on Friday rest with denuclearization in the region and a peace agreement.

"Rather than reaching an agreement on various fronts, the main focus of this Summit - between the North and the South - will be laying the basis for denuclearization, the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, and for progress in inter-Korean relations. Given the fact that inter-Korean relations have remained severed for a long time, thus deteriorating, it will be of great significance for the two leaders to build mutual trust through candid and heart-to-heart discussions," the diplomat emphasized.

He also speaks in the interview about the economic relation between Romania and the Republic of Korea.

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AGERPRES: South Korea was in the spotlight at the beginning of the year, thanks to the Winter Olympics, which it hosted. Is there an estimate of the impact that the Olympics had on South Korea's tourism?

Kim Eun-joong: I believe that the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games gave South Korea a unique chance to shine. Our country reportedly welcomed around 1.4 million tourists for the Winter Olympics in February, seeing quite a double-digit growth in the number of European and American visitors.

The Games are also very likely to boost long-term tourism in the region. For example, other relatively small cities not necessarily well-known before they hosted the Winter Olympics significantly increased tourist revenues in the following years after the Games ended. In Korea's case, the investments in the development of the region - around 14 trillion won ($12.9 billion) - for new resorts, roads, highways and trains, were not only aimed for the organization of the Winter Olympics. PyeongChang, just like Nagano and Salt Lake City, has the prerequisites for becoming a true international destination for winter sports, attracting travellers interested in these sports but lacking home venues.

AGERPRES: At the same time, the Olympics was also the arena of talks about the U.S.-South Korea-North Korea policy. How much has the relation with the neighboring country, North Korea evolved after the Olympics?

Kim Eun-joon: Beyond its success as a peace Olympics, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has made a great stride toward the denuclearization, permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and the advancement of inter-Korean relations. All this can be ascribable to inter-Korean talks together with the strong support of the United States. If it leads to the denuclearization of North Korea and the normalization of Pyeongyang-Washington ties, it will become a breakthrough for bringing peace to the world as well.

As of now, South Korea continues to hold high-level and working-level talks with North Korea for the preparation of the inter-Korean summit scheduled on April 27. On April 21, North Korea announced to close its nuclear test site and stop test launches of mid-to-long-range missiles. The North's decision is regarded as a significant step forward to the denuclearization of the Peninsula. In addition, it will contribute to creating a very positive environment for the success of both the inter-Korean summit and the one between North Korea and the United States. In this regard, I strongly believe that these upcoming summits will be an once-in-a-lifetime chance to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, establish permanent peace and move toward the development of sustainable inter-Korean relations. To this end, we will do everything in our power to make the most of this opportunity.

AGERPRES: In addition, what are the prospects of this relation in the context in which the U.S. is planning to open a dialogue with North Korea - President Trump announced that he will likely meet in May with President Kim Jong-un?

Kim Eun-joong: We are being given an invaluable opportunity to accomplish denuclearization, the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the opening of a path toward common prosperity in the two Koreas. If the inter-Korean summit and a U.S.-North Korea summit take place one after the other over the next two months, it will be possible to expect consequential changes. Our success will make a dramatic turnaround in world history.

The fundamental denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of peace will depend on whether we can seize this opportunity. It is not an accident that we have been able to create this opportunity - it has become possible only because it is the right path to take. The entire world is looking forward to peace, not war, and a diplomatic solution, not a military action.

The South Korean government will keep this in mind and make thorough preparations to lay solid stepping stones for peace on the Korean Peninsula through the inter-Korean summit on April 27, in close collaboration with neighboring countries and the international community.

AGERPRES: Towards the end of this month, the South Korea-North Korea summit will take place. Broadly, what are the goals of this summit and what are the main topics on the agenda?

Kim Eun-joong: Rather than reaching an agreement on various fronts, the main focus of this Summit - between the North and the South - will be laying the basis for denuclearization, the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, and for progress in inter-Korean relations. Given the fact that inter-Korean relations have remained severed for a long time, thus deteriorating, it will be of great significance for the two leaders to build mutual trust through candid and heart-to-heart discussions.

The primary topics on the agenda will include the denuclearization and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the enhancement of inter-Korean relations. To promote better inter-Korean ties, issues like inter-Korean talks, exchanges and cooperation, including humanitarian concerns are expected to be tackled in a balanced and comprehensive manner.

AGERPRES: However, the attempt to hold this summit and the U.S./North Korea talks on the nuclear issue could be redirected by North Korea/China talks. What is your country's position on this issue?

Kim Eun-joong: Not only in the recent Pyeongyang-Beijing summit, but also on many other occasions, China has been engaged actively and constructively in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table for denuclearization, while also contributing to the success of the upcoming inter-Korean summit and a U.S.-North Korea summit.

The Government of the Republic of Korea will continue close consultations with China. For now, it intends to channel its diplomatic efforts into making the inter-Korean summit and the U.S.-North Korea summit a success.

AGERPRES: Is there a possibility for Seoul to relax its sanctions against North Korea during the South Korea-North Korea and U.S.-North Korea Summits?

Kim Eun-joong: The Government of the Republic of Korea will make all-out efforts to create a milestone in the denuclearization and establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula through the success of the two upcoming summits. Additionally, our Government will keep working together with the international community to faithfully implement the sanctions against the North unless there is substantial progress in the denuclearization of the North.

AGERPRES: At the beginning of last year, a Memorandum of Cooperation between South Korea and Romania was signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest. Could you tell us what progress has been made since then in the economic relations between the two countries?

Kim Eun-joong: The Memorandum of Understanding regarding the cooperation and consultation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both Korea and Romania represents the importance that both countries grants to the South Korea-Romania Strategic Partnership - marked this year by its 10th Anniversary. Firstly, we agreed on the importance of intensifying the political dialogue between the two countries. In this sense, we managed to facilitate some important government-to-government meetings, in which the representatives reaffirmed their commitments to the democratic values that both countries share and support, and pledged to continue cooperation. To give recent examples, numerous Romanian representatives visited Korea last year: former Minister for Business Environment, Trade and Entrepreneurship, Ilan Laufer, State Secretary for Global Bilateral Affairs of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monica Gheorghita and the Association of the Romanian Municipalities.

Secondly, our discussions during last year's official visit in Romania of then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Korea highlighted the special interest of our countries to amplify the economic bilateral cooperation. Our Embassy has made contributions to strengthening the economic ties between Korea and Romania by way of different business meetings and events, and its well-known KSP (Knowledge Sharing Program), which was recently concluded for 2016-2017. Following this, in November 2017, the Korea Productivity Center and the Romanian Ministry for Business Environment, Trade and Entrepreneurship signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Romanian Productivity Center, aiming to become operational during 2018. Moreover, both countries are helping each other organize consultation mechanisms such as Industrial Cooperation Committee meetings, business forums, both in Seoul and Bucharest - with the important assistance of the Korean and Romanian Chambers of Commerce and other public entities.

Progress has been made not only in the political and economic fields, but also in other areas such as international cooperation and nuclear energy, and I will like to mention here the prospects for a future collaboration between the two national development cooperation agencies - RoAid and KOICA respectively -and the recent working visit of the representatives of Nuclearelectrica to Korea.

AGERPRES: What are the future perspectives of the economic cooperation with Romania?

Kim Eun-joong: Based on the pledges made under the Strategic Partnership and the strong institutional dialogue, Korea and Romania have been constantly reinforcing their areas of cooperation and seeking new opportunities of collaboration, especially in the economic field. These past years, various business forums and other consultation mechanisms, organized by Seoul and Bucharest, have convened businessmen, policymakers and representatives of both governments to discuss about trade balance, strategic areas of investment and the future development of the economic exchanges. The general consensus, emerging from these meetings, was that both states have untapped potential for further consolidating the economic relations and the solution lies on increased investments on both markets and cooperation between Korean and Romanian companies.

On one hand, due to its economic model of development, competitive advantages under the electrical machinery and equipment product industries, and the strong economic exchanges with the Member States of the European Union, Korea is an innovative economy, with a very stable macroeconomic and political environment. On the other hand, Romania can build up business momentum and become one of the top 10 economies in the European Union, by concentrating on the current economic growth and the strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product industry. Additionally, Korea represents an important destination market for Romanian goods and services in Asia, while the Korean products are well received on the Romania market.

Therefore, I strongly believe that based on these favourable business conditions and prior successful economic exchanges, both states can further develop their ties and maximize their economic potential. Let us not forget Romania's candidacy to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which will positively influence the steady cooperation between our countries. This is why I am confident that Korean and Romanian companies, together with the policymakers, will continue to capitalize on these business opportunities.

AGERPRES: In general, what are the areas in which South Korea deems that it could invest in Romania?

Kim Eun-joong: At present, there are 248 companies with Korean foreign capital registered in Romania, with most of them active on automotive construction market, electronics services and chemical industry. In this regard, I can mention several Korean companies that are currently investing and/or operating plants in Romania: Samsung, a well-known player on the global electronics market, GST Global Hyosung, an airbag textile producer that provides fabric and cushion to the automobile industry, Doosan IMGB, a metallurgical company dealing with castings and forgings, and GMB Korea, an automotive company located in Pitesti.

In addition to these traditional markets of cooperation, the two countries are currently engaged in discussions regarding collaboration in the nuclear energy field. Furthermore, important steps have been made in the agricultural sector. Due to the rising interest in the Romanian agricultural products, contacts have been established between the Korean businessmen, in particular, a company producing nutritional supplements and the Romanian local producers and local authorities.

Another pillar of cooperation concerns the health dimension. Korea signed two years ago a Memorandum of Understanding with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Finance of Romania. Therefore, the Korean investors are ready to join forces with their Romanian counterparts in order to improve hospitals' management system and work on the modernization of Romanian public and private hospitals.

AGERPRES: South Korea and Romania are countries that seem to come from different worlds. I mean in terms of the social, cultural differences between Asia and Europe. What did you find out (what surprised you the most) about the lifestyle of the Romanians and what do you think Romanians could learn from South Koreans?

Kim Eun-joong: Before being appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Romania, I served a three year term as Ambassador of my country to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, and during this period, I found Romania, as a neighbouring country, to be rich in history and with a profound culture. I see Romania as a country with great development potential, dynamic and young. It gives me the impression of a country in continuous movement, a feeling which I also have in what regards my country.

If I may add, I also believe that a lot of the similarities our countries share have contributed to making our relations closer within such a short period of time. For example, Korea and Romania have had similar experiences throughout their long histories and both the Korean and Romanian people are generous and open-minded.

I discovered that Romania is beautiful and peaceful - peace which Korea is currently making great strides in order to bring on the Korean Peninsula. In addition, Romania has the privilege to be a desirable business and investment destination, thanks to its strategic location and well-educated and motivated workforce, traits which South Korea also deems to have. Romania instead benefited from full support of the European family and made sound progresses in all areas, a reality which shaped Romania into a space of consolidated democratic values.

We both have something to learn from each other and in order to continue our path, both Romania, as well as Korea, need to encourage a sound rule of law and fight against corruption. There are difficult times which test our solidarity and cooperation. I believe that the best response to these challenges is maintaining our relations built on solid foundations of friendship and trust.

AGERPRES: Describe in a word the relation between South Korea and North Korea.

Kim Eun-joong: If I were to describe the relation between the two Koreas not in one, but in two words, I would say 'peace' and 'promising'. There are, however, many critical junctures ahead on the path towards the development of sustainable inter-Korean relations and the establishment of a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

At the moment, not only the South and the North, but also the international community are standing at an important turning point in world history. The Government of the Republic of Korea, along with the international community, will make utmost efforts to resolve North Korea's nuclear issue, achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establish permanent peace, a process in which we are also looking forward to the support of Romania and the Romanian people.

AGERPRES: At the Anniversary of 100 years since the Great Unification, could you tell us what does the unity (between countries) mean today - at international level?

Kim Eun-joong: First of all, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Great Unification, I would like to convey your country and the Romanian people my sincerest wishes of well-being, harmony and prosperity. 1st of December 1918 represents the fulfillment of the Romanian goal to live freely in a single national and unitary state. Similarly, the unity between states - at international level - is essential in ensuring long-term security, stability and sustainable development. Only together can we face challenges and find solutions to achieve peace and conciliation around the world. (RO - author: Oana Ghita; editor: Mia Barbulescu; EN - editor: Razvan-Adrian Pandea)

* The English-language version of the text of the interview was provided courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bucharest.

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