An auspicious year for Phl-Korea relations
(The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2018 - 12:00am

As the newly appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines, I arrived in Manila on a warm and pleasant day last month.  I had visited this beautiful country several times before but this was particularly special for me as I was honored to be the top representative of my government to this long-time and important partner of the Republic of Korea. I am determined to do my very best to upgrade this relationship to the highest level, and I am glad and I feel very lucky to start my job on this auspicious year.

I presented my Letter of Credence to His Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on January 17th, which was my third day on the job. This was exceptionally quick, considering that it normally takes more than a month for an ambassador to have an audience with the president to present his or her letter of credence, which would allow the envoy to officially start working in the host country. Without the value the Philippine government puts into our relationship, coupled with a bit of luck, this unusually expeditious development would have been impossible.

During my courtesy call on President Duterte, I introduced one of my mottos for Korean businessmen, i.e., “Invest, Invest, Invest.” Korea is already the Philippines’ 5th largest trading partner with a trade volume of $15 billion. But with the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program, there are many opportunities for us to expand this relationship, especially considering that the Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, with a growth rate of 6.7 percent in 2017. 

In terms of people-to-people exchange, we can expect an even higher number of Filipino and Korean visitors to each other’s country this year. 

The number of Korean tourists in the Philippines again passed the 1.5 million mark last year, which ranked number one among foreign tourists in the Philippines, and I hope to see more Korean visitors in the future with the improving security situation, thanks to our close cooperation with the Philippine National Police and other local law enforcement agencies.

For Korea, the 23rd Olympic Winter Games and 12th Winter Paralympic Games will be held on Feb. 9-25 and March 9-18 in PyeongChang, a picturesque county in Gangwon Province. Participants and guests from more than 90 countries, including North Korea, are expected to attend the Games.

The Korean government has been exerting great efforts to make PyeongChang 2018 a “Games of Peace” for the sake of all who will take part in it, and to ease tension in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has shown its willingness to participate in the Games. Moreover, the Philippines will be represented by two Filipino athletes - Asa Miller for alpine skiing and former Olympian Michael Christian Martinez for figure skating. I would like to invite more Filipinos to come and enjoy the Games in Korea, support their compatriots, and witness this historic moment of togetherness for all people connected through their passion for sports and peace.

With all these positive developments, I am happy to know that President Duterte is expected to visit Korea this year to further discuss the ways to enhance our countries’ bilateral ties with President Moon Jae-in. The two leaders already met each other last November in Manila on the occasion of the ASEAN-related summits and set the momentum for a stronger partnership between Korea and the Philippines. I will do my best to ensure the success of this meeting, with the hope that this visit will yield many concrete benefits for both nations.

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