H.E. Choong Joo Choi South Korean Ambassador to Pakistan

‘The main focus remained on the child education. In the beginning, education did not give dividends but it paid gradually in terms of tangible results. So, what does higher education means to us, it means technical skills and practical learning, etc.’

Q. South Korea fought a war soon after its independence and has been facing a constant security problem, but it has shown a phenomenal development. What is the secret?

A. South Korea is a small country with larger population of around 48 million. It is just opposite of your country which has large resources. We only have human resource. We do not have iron, gold or coal. We have concentrated our efforts on human resource development wherein South Korea allocated huge amount of money on education. I am grateful to my parents for their efforts and sacrifice for my education. We were desperate in the beginning and focused on human resource development. That is why, our economy developed in short span of time. The main focus remained on the child education. In the beginning, education did not give dividends but it paid gradually in terms of tangible results. So, what does higher education means to us, it means technical skills and practical learning, etc. That is why, we were able to get higher industrial production.

Q. Certain indicators are always to be credited for any success. Like, there could be visionary leadership, or strengthening of the institutions etc. How do you explain the Korean experience?

A. We were fortunate to have visionary leaders who paved the way for socio-economic development. Our leaders could devote energy and abilities to serve the development cause of the country in a selfless way. Eventually, we achieved the dual goal of a democratic society and economic development.

Q. South Korea constantly faces security threats since its inception. How the Koreans have been able to keep a fine balance between development pursuits and security concerns?

A. You are asking an important question. We are a developed country but at the same time, we are facing an external security threat. But we have no choice and have to fight on the two fronts. On the one hand, economic development is achieved and on the other, security is not compromised. That is why, Koreans are known to be hardest working people in the world. We are working even on the weekends.

Q. What was impact of the security relationship with the United States? Whether it proved to be an encouraging factor for development, as the Koreans could concentrate on their work while having the security umbrella from the United States?

A. At the time of our independence, it was the year of the cold war. Our aim was to achieve a democratic society on the basis of market economy. So, it was natural to have an alliance with the United States. As you rightly pointed out that we still remain an ally of the United States and one cannot deny the fact that we benefited a lot from our alliance with the United States.

Q. You mean the security umbrella of the United States was helpful?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. How is the relationship going ahead with Pakistan since Your Excellency has been here as ambassador of South Korea?

A. There is no doubt that we are maintaining close relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is an important country in this region while South Korea is an important country in the northeast Asia. So, we have to reinforce our efforts to benefit mutually from this relationship.

Q. How do you envisage furthering promoting the relationship?

A. There are many ways to promote the bilateral relations. At our embassy level, we are doing our possible efforts in all these areas, most importantly in the area of trade and economic cooperation. We are also working hard in the field of people to people contacts, promoting the cultural relations.

Q. In the trade relations, we do not see very encouraging partnership. South Korea has a surplus over $300b but trade with Pakistan last year was just around $1.3b. Even the bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan is higher than the trade between Pakistan and South Korea?

A. You are talking very right. We have greater potential. We are punching below our weight. There are several reasons behind our low trade volume. Unfortunately, your law and order situation is the key problem. It causes reluctance among the Korean businessmen to come here. I am very optimistic of our future trade. One is our economic complementarity. You are very rich in resources while South Korea is rich in capital and technology. We can work out greater synergies by combining the respective synergies.

Q. South Korean cooperation in   M-2 Motorway project was phenomenal. However, there has not been any followup in terms of any other huge signature project from South Korea. Why there is slow down in investment and development cooperation from South Korea?

A. You are right that the cooperation of Daewoo in M-2 project still remains a landmark. I feel very proud when I hear so around. Daewoo is still active in hydel power projects. They will play a more active role in future depending upon the situation.

Q. Can you identify which power projects South Korean companies are working for?

A. Many Korean companies are active in hydel power projects as energy shortage is creating problems for economic development. Daewoo is leading an important consortium in Patrina dam project in the AJK. So it will be another landmark when it will complete in 2014.

Q. South Korea has also included Pakistan in its Knowledge Sharing Programme. Can you explain a bit?

A. Knowledge Sharing Programme is very important development aid programme. Its aims to bring Korean knowldege to Pakistan. We have been developing science and technology over the last four decades. Through this programme, we are now trying to transfer our expertise and experiences in science, technology, training and education.

Q. Apart from a developed country, South Korea is an important member of this region. How do you share your experience in working in this neighbourhood?

A. Pakistan is important partner and a member of SAARC organisation. I think in near future Korean business community will be coming to Pakistan. We have already reached India. Now it is the time to go beyond India. So next will be Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc.

Q. You said Korean companies have reached India. What is the level of investment over there?

A. Korean companies have an investment in India to the tune of $10b.

Q. And how much in Pakistan?

A. At the moment, it is around $200m.


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