By Yoon Sojung
Photos = Jeon Han
Seoul | March 17, 2021
An international forum in Seoul has proposed bolstering digital cooperation between Korea and Central and South American countries.
The 2021 Korea-LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) Digital Cooperation Forum, held from March 17-18 at Lotte Hotel Seoul, was jointly hosted by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and ICT.
Under the theme "Partnership toward Digital Innovation and Inclusiveness," the forum was attended by eight high profile officials, including ministers and vice ministers, from five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia and Honduras. Experts and other high-ranking officers in digitalization from the region also took part via videoconferencing.
The forum discussed cooperation in areas such as 5G networks, digital government, cyber security, smart city and smart farms. Participants called Korea the best partner to work with in such collaboration.
The forum was the first high-level international gathering in the digital sector since Seoul announced the Korean New Deal last year.
At the forum's opening ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong said, "Korea and Latin America are creating a new cooperation paradigm centered on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 5G, digital government and artificial intelligence."
"We wish to pursue win-win cooperation though Korea's Digital New Deal policy and the digital transformation policy of Latin American countries. Our government also wants to share its pursued values of innovation and inclusiveness with other Latin American nations."
Minister Chung added that the Korean government will send a public-private delegation on e-government and information and communications technology to search for opportunities in customized cooperation projects with Latin America and share Korea's experience and benchmarks in digital transformation to narrow the digital divide.
Minister of Science and ICT Choi Kiyoung also introduced the Digital New Deal, one of the two pillars of the Korean New Deal. "Through the Digital New Deal, Korea is focusing on strengthening the digital ecosystem's DNA and boosting national competitiveness by building early a non-contact system in major sectors like education and social overhead capital."
"Through this forum, Korea will bolster solidarity with its Latin American partners,” he said. "Based on our win-win experiences, let us seek higher-level cooperation measures to effectively respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Rodolfo Solano Quiros said, "Korea is a world leader and a model country in digitalization of the economy and public service."
"Strengthened cooperation between Korea and Latin America will help narrow the global economic divide and the service gap in technology, medicine, and health and medical services among countries."
"Costa Rica hopes to follow Korea's example by narrowing the digital divide through policies such as building infrastructure for information and communications," he added. "By bolstering digitalization capability, we can overcome the waves of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and COVID-19 and recover."
In the forum's first session, "KOR-LAC Cooperation on Digital Transformation for Building Back Better and Preparing for the Future," Minister Solano said, "Latin American countries are effectively overcoming difficulties in the process of digital development by sharing their digital experiences with Korea."
In the same session, Colombian Vice Minister of Creativity and Orange Economy Adriana Padilla Leal introduced her country's "orange economy" (cultural and creative goods and services) initiative to overcome the pandemic and boost the country’s digital competitiveness.
Mentioning the four Oscars won last year by the Korean film "Parasite" as a benchmark, she said, "The orange economy focuses on promoting culture and creativity, helps artists and creators realize their various ideas, and extends the development of human resources and technology."
“We wish to cooperate with Korea in creative content sectors like film through diverse ways such as corporate joint ventures and signing an agreement in creative technology for digital transformation."
Participants on the forum's second day on March 18 discussed cooperation in cyber security, smart city and smart farms.
Livestreaming of the forum is available on the website k-lacdcf.or.kr.
Since 2017, Born2Global Center has been in continuous discussions with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) towards a bilateral Korea-LAC support of startups and in October of 2019 held the first Korea-LAC Startup Pitch Day and one-on-one partnership meetings between the two countries.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Born2Global Centre has consistently hosted online meetings, meetups, and pitch competitions that further promoted bilateral collaborations and development.
These sustained IDB and joint venture endeavors have resulted in the first Joint Venture partnership to be announced in April.
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 Kim Eun-young and Lee Hana
Korea has signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with five Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Korea is now the first East Asian country to sign a joint FTA with these five economies.
Minister for Trade Kim Hyun-chong met with his Central American counterparts at a signing ceremony at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Feb. 21. The countries signed the deal two years and eight months since negotiations began, back in June 2015.
The FTA outlines agreements on commodities, investments and intellectual property. Following the agreement, Korea and the five Central American countries will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of goods traded between them, in some cases effective immediately and others in phases.
With the new agreement, Korea will now be able to import Central American coffee and mangoes at lower costs. Central Americans will have cheaper access to Korean automobiles and steel.
The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) predicts that the Korea-Central America FTA will help to increase Korean GDP by 0.02 percent, improve civilian welfare by USD 690 million, and create over 2,500 jobs over the next 10 years.
The Korean government has begun the formal legal process to put the FTA into effect in the first half of 2018.