Ambassador Cho: South Korea ready to share economic experience, technology with Turkey
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAFeb 08, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Feb 08, 2016 12:00 am
Despite their geographical distance, Turkey and South Korea enjoy strong relations and people of the two countries feel like cousins. Moreover, there are similarities in the development tracks of the two countries. Over the last fifty years, South Korea transformed from an agricultural nation into an advanced nation with high technology and has faced the same middle-income trap which Turkey is currently facing. Regarding Korea's experience of the middle income trap, Ambassador Yun Soo Cho said that an adjustment process should be expected after experiencing such rapid growth, therefore there is no need to lose hope, while underlining the necessity of implementing legislative reforms to pass through this stage.
Ambassador Cho said that the Turkish economy is moving away from construction, agriculture and tourism toward manufacturing and technology-related industry, and Korea will be a good partner in this process. In answering a question as to whether the two countries can be good technology partners, the ambassador emphasized that it is an ongoing process, and big and well-reputed Korean companies are participating in development projects in Turkey.
Touching upon the cooperation among the newly-associated MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Australia) countries, the ambassador underlined the necessity of finding a common agenda, so regional and global issues can go together with solidarity.
Yun So Cho: Before we start, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to your people, especially to the Korean War Veterans (KWV), on behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of Korea. Without the sacrifice of Turkish young soldiers during Korean War, Korea would have remained one of the poorest countries in the world. Whenever North Korea takes aggressive actions, we feel appreciation for the young soldiers who lost their lives during the Korean War. Every year, the Korean Embassy initiates programs to deliver such appreciation. Not just for KWV, but also for their second and third generations, we will continue to find ways to deliver our appreciation. Therefore, I would like to reiterate my special thanks to your people.
DS: Turkey and South Korea have enjoyed strong relations since Turkey's participation in the U.N. forces during the Korean War. How would you evaluate the current stage of the bilateral relationship?
Our two countries are located 8,000km away, but still we are very close. There we find similar aspects in language, proverbs and some ways of behaving. The reason lies in two main points; the first is that our relation started in the sixth century, since our ancestors met first in the northeastern part of the continent of Asia, in accordance with our historic records. The other advantage in bilateral relations is the support of the Korean War veterans. Thus we have a very strong base to develop upon. On this basis, we have to develop more and more. I am satisfied with the current relationship, but I am also eager to develop it further.
DS: Despite the challenges that the country faced during the last 50 years, South Korea transformed from an agricultural nation to an advanced technology nation, and this is what Turkey is trying to do at the moment. As an ambassador of a friendly country, what Turkey can learn from South Korea's experiences?
From one side to other side, we have to cooperate together. From 2002, in almost 10 years, the Turkish economy has developed three times in terms of GDP and this is a great achievement. Therefore your people have great abilities to develop. And the Turkish government sets a visionary goal of 2023 to become one of the 10 largest economies. Definitely Turkey has the potential to do it. On the other hand, you have to find out more effective strategies on how to implement goals and objectives. Korea is an exemplary case for Turkey to consult. According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index in 2015, Korea was ranked number one. They categorized countries under six elements, and Korea is number one in some areas, such as research and development (R&D) and education. This indicates how we developed. When explaining the Korean economic progress, many people usually touch upon exports and imports. However, we should look further. Education and R&D are the medium for innovation. The Turkish economy is moving away from construction, agriculture and tourism towards manufacturing and technology-related industry, which is the right way to go. In this process, Korea will be a good partner.
DS: So how can South Korea and Turkey be technology partners?
Actually it is an ongoing process. Nowadays, big Korean companies with high reputations are participating in the development projects in Turkey. In these projects, they have hired more than 10,000 Turkish employees. This process is a natural way of transfer of technology. Technology is the key element in upgrading the economy. Korea is and continues to be a reliable partner in technology. Technology partners might be as important as trading ones.
DS: A free trade agreement between Turkey and Korea entered into force in 2013. In your opinion, what steps should be taken to further enhance trade relations between the two countries?
Between our two countries, the trade volume is $7.4 billion in 2014. However, we cannot be satisfied with the current trade volume, considering the big potentials of Turkey and Korea's total trade of $1.1 trillion dollars. Through the bilateral economic commission meeting, both sides are finding ways to enhance trade volumes, such as joint projects with third countries. Trade is one vehicle for economic transaction, and tourism is another. In 2014, as many as 250,000 Koreans visited Turkey, even though Korea is more than 10 hours flight away. In economic cooperation as a whole, mutual cooperation goes well, but still needs to go further.
DS: Last year some Turkish demonstrators beat some Korean tourists in Istanbul. How was this incident reacted to in South Korea? Do you think it affected Korean tourists?
When that incident occurred, I was very concerned about their safety. It was reported in the Korean press, but that issue was not seriously covered. When most Koreans visit Turkey, they want to look at time-honored historic sites and glorious civilizations. They do not stay at only one site like Antalya, but also wanted to travel to other cities also. Unless serious terrorist attacks, such as the recent one in Istanbul take place, Koreans would rather visit many cities in Turkey.
DS: In the last 10 years, Turkey has moved from a low-income country to a middle income country, and is now facing a "middle-income trap." What could Turkey learn from Korea's experience?
We also faced the middle-income trap from 1998 to 2000. We experienced what you are experiencing now. Turkey recorded a very high rate of economic growth from 2002 to 2013, so there would naturally be some adjustment process. There is need to lose hope, because there are always some periods of adjustment after rapid growth, in every country. However, we should not shy away from emerging problems. In order to get out of middle-income trap and to upgrade economy, reforms are needed, which are fit to each stage. Korea transformed its economic structure from one of light industry to heavy and chemical industry, and onto a knowledge-based economy. It is now in a creative economy. Turkey has a vision for 2023. Again, how can you achieve this vision? How can you move from one to another? Once again, the important elements for economic growth are higher-level science, sophisticated technology and job-oriented education.
Therefore, our projection should be some kind of technology-oriented cooperation. In overcoming the middle-income trap, more scientific research and more R&D investments should be brought in. Our R&D investment is number one in the world in terms of its proportion to GDP, which is 4.29 percent. The more you develop the more sophisticated technology you need. Turkey has great human resources and institutes for technology. For example, there is a scholar like Prof. Dr. Aziz Sancar, who recently won a Nobel Prize in the field of chemistry. When I visited Istanbul Technology University, KOÇ University and Bilkent University, I was quite impressed by the research facilities and highly qualified students. So long as there are closer contacts and exchange with foreign counterparts, Turkey will make impressive development in technology, which leads to economic growth. In this process, Korea would be a partner. Not only Korea, you can also cooperate with Germany, Singapore, Japan and China. Why not? Korea is ready, and the Korean businessmen are also ready to go together.
DS: MIKTA is a new associationwhere with Turkey and South Korea cooperates along with three others major countries; including Australia, Mexico and Indonesia. What are South Korea's expectations for the future of MIKTA?
The five MIKTA countries are in the same boat. There are many regional and global governance issues where MIKTA can contribute. The MIKTA countries are resilient and dynamic in their respective regions. For instance, Turkey is not only in the eastern part of Europe, but also in the western part of Asia, which includes the Middle East. I want to elaborate three pillars for the development of MIKTA. First, it is awareness; we should find a common agenda for regional and global issues to raise the awareness of ordinary people. Second, it needs solidarity to go together. For this purpose, a foreign minister's meeting plays a key role as an effective mechanism. Active participation in major events by each country would enhance solidarity. Korea is actively participating in the Antalya EXPO, the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and other conferences this year. Thirdly, it is value addition through implementation. The five countries will add value to MIKTA by implementing the agreed-upon programs, such as exchange of journalists.
DS: As South Korean culture is becoming popular in the world in Turkey, you have recently awarded a group of people called 'Korean Culture Supporters.' What other activities you are currently working on to promote Korean Culture in Turkey?
Even though Koreans already have affection towards Turkey, we cannot get enough information about your people's feelings. Therefore we appointed 17 people called Korean Culture Supporters from the fields of literature, art, military, sport and academia. Even Şenol Güneş was on the list, but he was not able to attend because of a match. Sometimes even though we spend much money, still we do not understand what the people exactly need. We requested them to give us some advice in launching cultural projects. We asked them what kinds of projects are more influential to gain access to people. During the first orientation meeting, they pointed out that cultural programs should be performed not only in Istanbul or in Ankara, but also in some other smaller cities. After their advice, we asked our head office to send Korean cultural groups not just to some big cities, but also more in medium and small-sized cities, in an effort to better engage with your people.
DS: The North Korean nuclear threat remains the biggest obstacle for South Korean foreign policy. How is South Korea planning to resolve this problem? Do you think reunification is possible?
North Korea's fourth nuclear test is a very serious provocation, which threatens not only the Korean peninsula, but also northeast Asia and the whole world. North Korea is one of the poorest countries, where their citizens are trying to survive and to escape from their homes. Under these circumstances, the North Korean regime shamefully spends most of their money on the development of nuclear bombs and missiles. Following North Korea's nuclear test, we cannot continue business as usual. The international community has to send firm and unified message and take strong measures against North Korea. As for reunification, we wish for a peaceful and democratic unification, but at this moment we are focusing on dealing with recent provocations
DS: Is there anything else that His Excellency would like to add?
For the Turkish young generations, I recommend them to aim high for the future. I remind myself of a phrase by a famous Korean businessman. That is, "Dünya büyük, yapacak iş çok." (The world is large, there is much work to be done)