Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of Republic of Korea to Pakistan Suh Sangpyo talked to Daily Islamabad POST on a variety of issues. He discussed in detail the ongoing cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador Suh also explained salient features of bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture and as to how this cooperation can further be enhanced. Here is the text of his interview.
1. Bilateral relations
Korea’s annual trade volume is over 1 trillion dollars and the trade volume between Korea and Pakistan is only 1 billion dollars. So, trade and economic relations between the two countries need to be expanded. Recently joint ventures between Korea and Pakistan have been created, such as Kia and Hyndai in auto industry and Samsung in electronics as well. In June two hydro power projects of 1.5 billion us dollars obtained Letter of Intent from the KP provincial government.
2. Business potential
The Pakistani government has done well to make business easy for foreign investors. So I see the increase of Korean companies in trade and investment. However, there exist some aspects to be improved for creating even better environment for business. For example, transparency and predictability are very important in doing business and so more sophisticated business regulations need to be introduced.
3. Korean companies in Pakistan
There are Korean companies in various sectors. If I enumerate some of Korean companies in Pakistan, there are Korea Energy, K-Water, Lotter Construction Company in hydropower sector, Hyundai and Kia in auto industry and Samsung and LG in electronics sector.
Most of difficulties that Korean companies encountered have been resolved thanks to the full assistance by the federal and local governments of Pakistan. But as I told earlier, some difficulties such as unpredictability in doing business might be a barrier for Korean companies to come here. Recently an abrupt imposition of taxes on the imported mobile phones gives difficulties to Samsung electronics.
4. Pakistani manpower in Korea
Pakistani manpower is skillful and diligent, so they are welcomed by the Korean companies. The Korean government established a work visa system for the skilled foreign workers. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, around 500 Pakistani workers entered Korea under the work visa system. Pakistani workers in Korea contribute a lot to cement the ties between the two countries. Their excellent work performance and their kindness are well explaining Pakistan to the Korean people.
5. Business environment
Security in a society is one of important elements to bring foreign investments. Therefore, Afghan peace process is very important to continue to host foreign investment in Pakistan. I see the Pakistani government do its best for the peace process and on the other hand fencing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent happening abrupt insecurity in Pakistan.
In 2019 a big Korean Buddhist delegation of Jogye Oder visited Pakistan to boost Buddhist pilgrimage tourism here. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourist exchanges have been limited. Once the pandemic is over, we will see a rapid increase of Korean tourists here. Other than Buddhist heritage, the Northern mountainous areas are also famous to Koreans. So there is great potential in touristic exchanges.
7. Your impressions about Pakistan and its people?
Pakistan is a huge country with a population of 220 million and endowed with natural resources and vast farmland. Pakistan is a country where Indus valley civilization, one of three ancient civilizations of the world, is originated. So my impressions about Pakistan is amazing. Pakistan is making efforts to do its role as a responsible country in the world. Pakistani people are enjoying their lives in all the aspects of society such as culture and economy. Even people of Pakistan are very kind to foreigners and make them feel at home. Pakistan is a preferred country for diplomats to come.
8. Cultural relations
Cultural relations between Korea and Pakistan go up to the 4th century when Malananda, a Buddhist monk from Pakistan, brought Buddhism to the Korea. In 8th century Hyecho, a Korean Buddhist monk made a pilgrimage visit to Pakistan. Now cultural exchanges of the two countries have expanded to various areas. The Korean embassy recently held a festival of K-Pop, Korean popular music and many Pakistani young people attended the festival and enjoyed themselves.
(The detailed interview shall be published in the coming issue of CENTRELINE magazine)