Sri Lanka, a good friend of Korea, says Ambassador Lee Heon

Lee Heon, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka.

Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka, Lee Heon, expressed his sincere gratitude to those attending the National Day Reception. “I am very proud and honored to host the National Day of the Republic of Korea reception in Sri Lanka, where I started my diplomatic career exactly 20 years ago,” he said.

Since then, the bilateral relations between Korea and Sri Lanka had greatly evolved, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 2017. The cooperative relations have been extended to all areas including politics, economy, development cooperation, labor, culture, etc. Sri Lanka has been truly a good friend of Korea on a whole range of issues, sharing common values and goals, says the Ambassador.

The state visit of President Maithripala Sirisena in 2017 and the visit of Parliament Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya last year well exemplify the strengthened partnerships and cooperation between the countries. These visits have certainly provided new momentum for further high-level official exchanges and helped to consolidate the relationship between two countries, noted the Ambassador.

Ambassador Lee Heon also expressed his deepest condolences on the victims of the Easter bombings. “It was an appalling terror attack that left behind hundreds of innocent victims. All the people around the world stood with Sri Lankan people at the heartbreaking news. Korean hearts and thoughts were also with Sri Lanka. President Moon Jae-in, Speaker Moon Hee-sang, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha have delivered the condolences to the government and people of Sri Lanka respectively,” said the Ambassador.

“I was confident that Sri Lanka would overcome the scars of the terror attacks, just like it had overcome the hardships of the Civil War. Last few months I have witnessed that brave Sri Lankan people struggle to bring the society back to normalcy. I would also like to show my respect for those who have done their best to overcome the Easter terror and the scars that it left. The people and government of the Republic of Korea are ready to stand by our close friend, Sri Lanka,” the Ambassador noted.

“Boosting bilateral trade and investment of both countries might be one of good ways for Korean Ambassador to help not only Sri Lanka but also Korea. Our two countries have seen a gradual development of economic and trade cooperation over the decades. As Sri Lanka began to restore its peace and stability, more and more Korean companies and tourists are coming to Sri Lanka either to seek business opportunities or to enjoy the charm and beauty of the island. Currently, public and private sectors of both countries are engaging more actively to seek effective ways to move forward in various fields such as sustainable energy, ICT and eco-friendly water management. I firmly believe that the strengthened public and private partnership would pave the way to further consolidate our strong bilateral ties.”

“Moreover, the on-going labor cooperation is the key to the economic development of both countries in a way to contribute to the mutual benefits. Approximately 30,000 strong and diligent Sri Lankan workers dispatched to Korea function as a bridge for connecting our countries as well. Indeed even after returning home, they have kept favorable interests in Korea and helped to raise the awareness among the general public.”

The Ambassador also noted that Korea wishes its unique experience be common experience by sharing its knowhow with partner countries. The sum of the investment in various ODA projects and Grants for Sri Lanka since 1987 is over 600 million USD. In 2017 alone 15 million USD was allotted to Grant and 4.5 million to ODA in Sri Lanka.

KOICA also has sent thousands of Sri Lankans to Korea for training in various areas including administration, education, and so on since 1991. This year only, more than one hundred Sri Lankan were dispatched to Korea by KOICA. Furthermore, Exim Bank of Korea has supported the establishment of Ocean University, the largest vocational training project of Sri Lanka. Recently Exim Bank increased the funding for Ocean University by another 30 million USD to make total 80 million USD. As a reliable middle power, Korea is a trustworthy partner for Sri Lanka to meet the current and future needs of national development, the Ambassador pointed out.

“As we are here to celebrate the national day of the Republic of Korea, I would like to briefly share the meaning of the founding principle of Korea ‘Hongik Ingan‘. Literally it means ‘Benefit to All Mankind’. It symbolizes the values such as liberal democracy and international pacifism. Based on such spirits, the Korean government tries to bring peace and prosperity to the Korean peninsula in close cooperation with international society. Last year was quite memorable because PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics were successfully held with the participation of North Korean athletes. After the games, dialogue and peace-building process have replaced tension and confrontation. A series of historic summits between two Koreas, as well as the summit between the U.S. and North Korea marked historic milestone for positive peace developments on the Korean peninsula,” he said.

“As President Moon Jae-in emphasized in his UN speech last month, decisions made by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un at the previous summit provided the momentum behind the dramatic change in the situation on Korean Peninsula. I firmly believe that the momentum on the Korean peninsula will continue and as a result denuclearized and peaceful Korean peninsula will facilitate the regional peace and prosperity as well. The Korean government is grateful to the government and peace-loving people of Sri Lanka for supporting our policy on the issue,” said the Ambassador.

In conclusion, he said, “As the Korean Ambassador in Sri Lanka, I reiterate my sincere willingness to do my best to upgrade our bilateral relationship. I am convinced that in the years ahead our two countries will reach the new horizons of cooperation, and friendship between Korea and Sri Lanka will further grow”.