By Yoon Sojung and Elias Molina
Photo = Jeon Han
Seoul | March 18, 2021
"President Moon Jae-in's 'net-zero' goal for 2050 and Costa Rica's 2030 National Decarbonization Plan have many things in common," Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Rodolfo Solano Quiros said on March 18 during an official visit to Korea.
"Based on these common points, we can build a bridge connecting Korea and Central and Latin American nations."
In an interview with Korea.net at the Costa Rican Embassy in Seoul's Jung-gu District that day, he said, "Bolstered cooperation between Korea and Costa Rica can contribute to developing Korea's relations with Central and Latin American countries."
Appointed to his post last year, Minister Solano on March 15 left on his first overseas trip as his nation's top diplomat to Korea to attend the Korea-LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) Digital Cooperation Forum. The event was jointly hosted by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and ICT.
Solano has history with Korea, having served as Costa Rican ambassador to Seoul from September 2015 to August 2019 and consul at his nation's embassy from September 2002 to November 2010.
This year, Costa Rica marks the bicentennial anniversary of its independence as well as its entry as the 38th member nation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The following are excerpts from Korea.net's interview with the minister.
- This is your second interview with Korea.net; the first was in 2018. How do you feel about returning to Korea this time?
I have mixed feelings this time. Personally, this is my first official overseas visit since being appointed foreign minister. Considering the limits on all exchanges due to COVID-19, my return to Korea holds a lot of significance.
- Costa Rica seeks to expand the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles since its 2019 announcement of the National Decarbonization Plan (NDP) in 2019. What is the reason behind this energy transition?
Costa Rica chose a "green and inclusive approach" to recover from the COVID-19-induced economic crisis. In 2019, Costa Rica announced the NDP to promote both infrastructure and a change in mindset. We all agree that an approach of a green and inclusive economy is the only way to overcome the current situation.
The Green New Deal announced by President Moon Jae-in last year is also about achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. This plan is in line with Costa Rica’s 2030 NDP and both countries have common goals. Moreover, Costa Rica three weeks ago announced its so-called 3D Plan, a comprehensive version of the NDP. The "3D" refers to "decarbonization, digitalization and decentralization" and reflects the intent to more deeply decarbonize. Based on the fundamental 3D framework, this plan focuses on local governments taking control of the development they wish to achieve while creating environmental, economic and social ecosystems. This is quite similar with the Korean New Deal. Based on the common approaches of the Korean New Deal and Costa Rica's 3D Plan, we can build a bridge that connects Korea and Central and South American countries.
- The free trade agreement between Korea and Costa Rica took effect in 2019. What sectors will be benefited the most from the pact?
The Korea-Costa Rica FTA is the first "new generation" FTA. This is because the accord goes beyond tariffs to focus on small and mid-size companies, innovation and a knowledge-based economy, while seeking to create a good environment for trade and investment and job creation.
While inequality has spread worldwide, the only sectors that can solve this situation and generate jobs are e-commerce, the digital field and the green economy. Both countries can share their common values and best practices with their Latin American partners through the FTA to expand cooperation to other areas in addition to the economy. This agreement will also be a crucial first step to realize the 2030 NDP.
- Why do you think bilateral human and cultural exchanges have risen over the last ten years?
The answers are found from both psychological and sociological perspectives. From a sociological view, Koreans understand that the Central and South American region can be also their horizon, not just the Pacific. Based on this understanding, Koreans use strategies to discover not just opportunities for investment, commerce and trade but also those for human exchange. This is why many Latin American students today come to Korea to study not just economic success, but also Korean culture.
The psychological perspective is closely related to Hallyu. This well-made cultural strategy includes Hallyu dramas and pop music. Hallyu's success ranging from those of singer Rain and BTS shows how well Korea understands culture and the win-win strategy that such success is based on. This strategy not only connects Koreans with Latin Americans, but also offers the latter another horizon other than the Atlantic. From this point, people from both regions meet and share their cultures. When I get on a KTX high-speed train, I now find one or two people who understand Spanish. I feel very lucky to directly see such a moment.
- How has bilateral cooperation been in responding to COVID-19?
COVID-19 is attacking everyone regardless of nationality, border, race, society or economy. To jointly respond to the pandemic, Korea and Costa Rica have been closely cooperating while providing assistance. Seoul offered necessary goods for responding to the coronavirus, something San Jose appreciates. Costa Rica is working with Korea in science and technology cooperation. Medical experts and researchers from both sides are also conducting academic exchanges and will do joint projects after the vaccination process.
The two sides are also working together in important projects for access to medical supplies and vaccines. Vaccines are very important, and thus it is important for all countries to gain access to them. Nobody will be really safe until all the people is vaccinated. Through the COVAX initiative, the two nations have cooperated multilaterally so that many countries can access medical goods and vaccines. And at the Republic of Korea-SICA (Central American Integration System) forum that Costa Rica hosts next month, both countries will cooperate in research and development of pharmaceuticals and health care. Costa Rican medical experts and scientists will work with Korea to provide information on infectious diseases like COVID-19 and conduct research to prevent similar diseases from spreading.
- This year is the bicentennial anniversary of Costa Rican independence and marks your nation's entry as the 38th member of the OECD. Also, next year, Korea and Costa Rica marks the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relationship. How will your country mark these milestones?
This year is the bicentennial anniversary of Costa Rica's independence and our entry into the OECD. Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Costa Rica. Thanks to such symbolic and coincidental moments, we can build a stronger bridge between both countries. This is important not just to celebrate the past 200 years and the 60 years, but also important is to look ahead to the next 200 and another 60 years.
This year marks Costa Rica's entry into the OECD and Korea's 25th anniversary as an OECD member. As OECD member states, we have the same responsibility of sharing our experiences and best practices with our regional neighbors. If COVID-19 permits, I hope we can travel and exchange freely as we did in the past. I also wish for President Moon Jae-in and Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada to exchange visits and hold talks on bolstering bilateral relations.
By Lee Hana and Lee Jihae
The government has published an English-language book that comprehensively outlines the country's systematic response to COVID-19.
Given rising global interest in Korea's exemplary fight against the pandemic, the book "All About Korea's Response to COVID-19" was released on Oct. 12.
The book is targeted at both foreign policymakers and readers and provides an overall view of Korea's quarantine system.
It gives a detailed explanation of progress in the development of Korea's response to COVID-19, the national response system for the pandemic and its operation, the government's "3T (test, trace and treatment)" approach, and immigration and screening measures.
The book cites the core values of K-quarantine as "openness, transparency, civic engagement and innovativeness" and mentions the social environment factors that form the cornerstone of the country's COVID-19 response system, including its experience with and handling of MERS, advanced information and communications technology, and public participation.
The book is available in the link below or the section titled "Korea's Response to COVID-19" on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' English-language website.
By Kim Young Deok and Yoon Sojung
Video = GX Caltex
A drone on the morning of Oct. 13 flew high over a gas station in the Soho-dong neighborhood of Yeosu, Jeollanam-do Province. After loading a few items, the drone automatically ascended to about 80 m and crossed the sea to arrive on Jangdo Island 900 m from the mainland.
When it approached a grassy field on the island, it descended vertically until it was 1 m from the ground and landed.
An autonomous robot was waiting for the drone and when the latter arrived, the robot opened its cargo box so that the drone could drop its load and return to the gas station. The robot then traveled 700 m to its final destination of Creative Studio. Delivery time took about 10 minutes.
This was the noncontact delivery service featuring drones and robots that was jointly demonstrated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.
The event showed the nation's first delivery service that uses drones and autonomous robots.
Having demonstrated in June a lunchbox delivery service using drones on Jeju Island, the ministry this time made an upgrade from the previous event by adding robots to overcome the limited accessibility of drones in places deemed hard to approach, such as crowded areas or indoors.
The drones were made by Neon Tech and the robots by Unmanned Solution. A drone can load up to 5 kg of items and fly 30-60 km per hour for up to 30 minutes. A robot can hold up to 150 kg of cargo and run for up to five hours at a speed of 5 km per hour.
By Lee Kyoung Mi and Yoon Sojung
Korea in this year's first half showed the world's second-highest increase in the number of international patent applications filed.
The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) on Sept. 14 said 8,867 domestic companies filed such applications with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the first half of this year, making the country fifth in the world. The figure is a 10.3% jump from the same period last year and the world's second-highest increase after China's.
Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), if a patent application is submitted to a PCT member country's patent office, it has the same effect as that submitted to any of the treaty's 153 member nations.
By country, China in the first half showed the highest increase of 19.8%, while the U.S. recorded a 4.7% rise. Both Korea and China showed a sharp rise in patent applications while Japan (minus 0.5%) and Germany (minus 2.4%) each saw a decline.
Since 2010, Korea has ranked fifth in the number of international patent applications filed. Considering Germany's latest decrease, Korea is likely to grab fourth at year's end to trail only the U.S., China and Japan.
A KIPO analysis found that Korea's steady increase in the number of such applications filed was thanks to domestic companies acquiring international patents to secure the foundation for penetrating overseas markets and aggressively protecting their patented technology or know-how.
KIPO said in a news release, ''Those who secure overseas patents swiftly will determine the outcome of global competition over technological dominance in the post-COVID-19 era.''
''We will provide maximum support to Korean companies so that they can secure and effectively use international patents to actively enter and take the lead in overseas markets.''
By Kim Minji and Lee Jihae
Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, citing a Forbes survey ranking Korea the third safest for COVID-19 among 100 countries, on Sept. 16 said, "This is an opportunity to confirm Korea's outstanding quarantine capacity."
Earlier on Sept. 3, the U.S. business magazine had ranked Korea just after Germany and New Zealand in the article "The 100 Safest Countries For COVID-19: Updated" based on a report by a Hong Kong-based think tank.
The study rated safety in 250 countries based on economy, politics and health related to COVID-19 using big data spanning six categories including quarantine efficacy, 30 indexes and 140 variables.
Korea ranked tenth in June when the global rankings were first announced and thus moved up seven notches.
Sharing the nation's jump in rankings on Facebook, Minister Hong said, "COVID-19 is not just the number of confirmed patients or deaths but holds another meaning in quantifying each country's capacity to respond to COVID-19."
"Detailed analysis has confirmed that despite being one of the world's most densely populated countries, Korea has confirmed the excellence of K-quarantine through its remarkable quarantine capacity."
He added, "The higher ranking reflects civic quarantine efforts nationwide, policy toward public welfare and efforts to revive the economy."
By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae
A new test kit for COVID-19 allows a user to visually confirm within 15 minutes whether he or she is infected with the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety on July 30 said the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology utilized the combined response of an antigen and an antibody to develop a fast diagnostic technology for antigens.
If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the kit changes color in about 15 minutes, allowing the testee to visually confirm if he or she contracted the coronavirus.
The commercialization of the kit will allow cheaper and faster testing if a surge of infections occurs, thus reducing the workload of onsite hospital personnel.
Both ministries said the aim is to produce items utilizing this technology within this year.
By Kim Young Deok and Lee Jihae
Photos = Jeon Han
Seoul | June 24, 2020
Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip on June 24 said the government has enough beds, medical personnel, resources and capacity to respond to even a worst-case scenario of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Concurrently general coordinator of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, he told a forum held by Seoul National University and unofficially titled "COVID-19 Pandemic, Korea's Response and Tasks II" at Blue Square in Seoul's Yongsan-gu District, "The government is monitoring and predicting the presently unfolding situation by the minute."
"If we prevent momentary carelessness (by the people) from spreading a small infection source, we can continue leading the control of a range of situations."
The vice minister said the government's response to COVID-19 contains the elements of innovation, flexibility, governance and tolerance.
On an innovative and flexible response to the pandemic, he said, "We've conducted more extensive and preemptive testing than any other country through the use of artificial intelligence and development of diagnostic testing technology."
He cited the country's active adoption of walk-thru and drive-thru screening clinics and the operation of lifestyle treatment centers for patients with mild symptoms.
Vice Minister Kim said Korea achieved quarantine through engagement and solidarity with the international community, adding, "We guaranteed necessary international exchanges through a special entry process. Our implementation of quarantine through the continuance of daily life and without a long-term lockdown can be commended."
By Xu Aiying and Yoon Sojung
With Korea's response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receiving global accolades, the government has devised a roadmap to make the nation's disinfection model a global standard.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on June 11 announced plans to devise the roadmap at the sixth meeting of the Central Economic Response Headquarters at Government Complex-Seoul.
The roadmap seeks to build the "K-disinfection model," based on the "3T" concept of test, trace and treatment, in a systematic manner and propose a combined 18 global standards to the International Standard Organization.
In the testing and confirmation stage, Korea will propose six standards such as diagnostic agents, testing methods and management of testing centers to accurately diagnose the coronavirus and classify confirmed cases. In the clinical research and trace stage, it will propose four standards including a mobile app to effectively trace and manage people in self-isolation, as well as a support system for clinical research. And in the isolation and treatment stage, eight standards will be proposed like the operation of lifestyle treatment centers to isolate and treat confirmed patients and social distancing guidelines.
The plan also includes the standardization of clinical data and standard materials, both of which are obtained in the disinfection research and development process.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo said, "In the past, when a deadly infectious disease broke out in the international community, a standardized disinfection model was unavailable. For this reason, proposing standardization under our leadership holds significance."
"Through the standardization of the Korean disinfection model as the global standard, we will strive to bolster our leadership and use this as an opportunity to lead the new international order."
By Lee Kyoung Mi and Lee Jihae
The government has launched an intergovernmental cooperative group led by Korea to boost international cooperation and respond to acts of hatred and discrimination that violate human rights amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 26 announced that it hosted a videoconference on the launch of the Group of Friends for Solidarity and Inclusion with Global Citizenship Education.
The government led the formation of the group centered on UNESCO representatives to lead discussions on major issues in global society such as hatred and discrimination, based on international praise for Korea's exemplary response to COVID-19.
Comprising 11 countries including the chair Korea, Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh and Colombia, the group will be run as an open cooperative body so that other UNESCO member states can also participate.
About 110 officials including Minister Kang, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO diplomatic corps and secretariat officials took part in the videoconference for the group's launch.
The group adopted a joint statement saying that under a mindset of solidarity and tolerance, the international community will oppose hatred and discrimination, and through boosted educational activities for people worldwide, it will also strengthen global cooperation in the post-COVID-19 era.
"Prejudice, discrimination, stigmatization and xenophobia due to COVID-19 not only violates the fundamentals of human rights but also hinders quarantine," Minister Kang said in a congratulatory message.
She emphasized the importance of education for the world to respond to these issues, saying, "I hope the group becomes an action-oriented platform so that various discussions lead to practical policy proposals."
Director-General Azoulay thanked the minister and Korean representatives for forming the group, adding that she actively welcomes the establishment of a group for solidarity and tolerance led by Korea at a time when the importance of solidarity has grown.