LAHORE - Pak-Korea ties are at all-time high and have been continuously getting stronger on common agenda of economic development as well as regional peace and security since establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1983. Dr Song Jong-hwan, the ambassador of the Republic of Korea, expressed these views in an interview with Waqt News yesterday.

Dr Song has vibrant academic and diplomatic career. He did his PhD in Political Science from Korea in 2002 and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) from USA in 1984.

Dr Song is the only ambassador who has distinction of working with both Korean President Park Geun-hye and her father former President Park Chung-hee who laid the foundation of economic development of his country. Ambassador Song is being evaluated as a diligent envoy by Islamabad-based diplomatic community, Pakistani officials, businessmen and journalist community owing to his consistent interaction with all of them.

Since his posting in Pakistan in June 2013, he has emphasised expansion of partnership in trade, energy, information technology, agriculture and social capital, which is sure to reshape and cement the relations between the two countries further.

Dr Song answered several questions during the interview which is reproduced below:

Q.1: How would you evaluate Pak-Korea political relations?

Ans: Since my posting, I have been fortunate to be a part of many significant developments that greatly strengthened the friendship between our two nations:

The Korean prime minister and its National Assembly speaker visited Pakistan in 2014 for the first time in history.

On September 27, 2015, Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a meeting on the sidelines of the 70th UNGA Summit in New York and discussed avenues of enhancing ties.

Q 2: Your embassy recently celebrated Korea Month. Please tell us a little about this.

Ans: The National Foundation Day of the Republic of Korea is celebrated on October 3 every year. To encourage our growing bonds, we marked it with more than 20 events such as a seminar on economic development and national cohesion, ground-breaking ceremony of 120MW Gulpur Hydropower project, Korea-Punjab Trade and Investment (PBIT) Business Forum, Korea-KPK Business Forum and meetings with various chambers of commerce and industry.

We also focused on strengthening people-to-people contacts between Korea and Pakistan through various events like a seminar on Gandhara and Korean Buddhist culture, a fashion gala featuring Korea’s traditional attire, a seminar with HEC to highlight educational, research and sport linkages.

Q.3: What are the implications of North Korea’s recent Hydrogen Bomb test on January 6, 2016, and missile test the same year on February 7?

Ans: North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes pose a real danger not only to the East Asian region but also to the world. The Republic of Korea strongly condemned these tests and vowed to take all necessary measures to penalise it.

The Republic of Korea is making all-out efforts to ensure sanctions against North Korea to force it to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.

On January 8, Pakistan expressed its deep concern over the nuclear test by North Korea, urging all the countries to comply with their respective international obligations. Korea appreciates Pakistan’s support on many issues, including implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions against North Korea and requests Pakistan’s continued support to restrain North Korean provocations.

The United Nations condemned the nuclear test, calling it a clear threat to international peace and security. The United Nations also condemned the long-range missile test in an emergency session on February 7, 2016, and announced it will adopt a new resolution in response to “these dangerous and serious violations”.

On December 12, 1985, North Korea acceded to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), but did not complete safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

On January 20, 1992, North Korea signed Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with the Republic of Korea. Under the declaration, both sides agreed not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.

On October 21, 1994, North Korea signed the agreed framework with the United States in which Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons programme in exchange for aid.

On September 19, 2005, in the Joint Statement of the six-party talks, North Korea again committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes.

All countries should keep their word and honour their commitments otherwise it is not possible to maintain peace and order in the world.

Q.4: Korea built infrastructure in Pakistan in 90s. Are there any other projects planned for future?

Ans: The construction of Motorway M-2 by famous Korean company, Daewoo, in 1997 is considered a pertinent landmark in our bilateral business relations. Hyderabad-Mirpurkhas carriageway was also built under a public-private partnership between the Sindh Government and the Korean company, Doek Jae, in 2012. At present, Lowari Tunnel construction is under way by Sambu Construction while Korean companies are ready to participate in other infrastructure development projects if Pakistan offers attractive projects to them.

Q.5: Pakistan needs energy to meet its development needs. Is Korea ready to do more energy projects in Pakistan in addition to the ones it is already working on?

Ans: Korea is one of the leading power development partners of Pakistan as 177 megawatt Fauji Thermal Power Plant in Sindh was built by Doosan Heavy Industries, Korea, in 2011, 84MW New Bong Hydropower in AJK was built by Sambu Construction in 2013, 404MW UCH-II thermal power plant in Balochistan was also built by Hyundai Engineering in 2014, 147MW Patrind hydropower project in AJK is scheduled to be completed by K-Water & Daewoo Construction by the end of December 2016, 106MW GolenGol hydropower, Chitral-KP, is scheduled to be completed by Sambu Construction by the end of December 2017, 100MW GulPur Hydropower project in AJK will be completed by KOSEP, Daelim Construction and Lotte Construction by the end of December 2018. A power transmission line project in Gujrat is expected to be completed during the current year as well. Apart from this, review studies of some more hydropower projects, including 4,320MW Dasu hydropower project, are underway.

We hope on-time completion of these projects would help Pakistan to meet shortfall to some extent.

Q.6: The Republic of Korea has been development partner of Pakistan. How do you evaluate Korean Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Pakistan?

Ans: Pakistan is a priority development partner of Korea and has been receiving a substantial amount of Korean Official Development Assistance (ODA) since 1991.

Till 2014, Korea has provided around 42 million dollars aid-grant to Pakistan for various social welfare projects. These aid-grant projects are executed through Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Korean aid agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Over 160 million dollars EDCF financing has been provided to upgrade the power distribution system in Gujranwala and Lahore and to build Malakand Road tunnel project. In 2015, Korea decided to enlarge its development partnership with Pakistan and on 2nd October, a (2015-2017) EDCF framework arrangement to provide 500 million dollars was signed in Islamabad.

Q.7: What kinds of projects KOICA has executed in Pakistan and what are its future plans?

KOCIA aid-grant projects are directly contributing to the social welfare of Pakistan. From 2006 to 2015, KOICA has undertaken about 10 projects in the areas of vocational skill development, education, ICT, agro and livestock technology, water and sanitation etc.

After my arrival in Pakistan, seven projects – Water Supply Scheme, Mandi Bahauddin, Water Treatment Plant, Kasur, ICT Centre of Excellence, Islamabad, Agri and Livestock Technology Centre at Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Technical Textile Centre at National Textile University, Faisalabad and Water Quality Management Institute at PCRWR, Islamabad.

Q.8: As you said Korea singed 500 million dollars EDCF framework agreement with Pakistan in October 2015. How do you plan to utilise this EDCF financing?

Ans: The governments of Pakistan and Korea agreed to utilise EDCF financing in the areas which have high potential to uplift Pakistan’s economy such as information technology, transport infrastructure, agriculture, energy, health and education.

Therefore, in close collaboration with the government of Pakistan we are working to prioritise various projects in these areas of mutual interests.

Korea has so far approved 46 million dollars for Children Hospital in Sindh and 94 million dollars for National Highway N45 Section-III (Kalkatak to Chitral). Financing for N-45 Section I (Chakdra to Timergara) is at advance stage of approval while work on establishing an advanced IT park in Islamabad is going on fast-track by the Korean experts in collaboration with Ministry of IT Pakistan.

Q.9: Among those projects, what is present status of Islamabad IT Park project?

Ans: In October 2014, IT Minister Anusha Rehman visited Korea to attend International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Conference. During the visit, she witnessed Korea’s advanced IT sector and relevant infrastructure. On return to Pakistan, she met me and discussed the possibility of establishing a high-tech IT park in Islamabad in collaboration with Korea. I appreciated her idea and assured all possible support to this project on my part and that of the government of Korea as well. Today, it is my pleasure to inform you that the feasibility study of Islamabad IT Park is going to be completed by Korean experts in April this year.

Q.10: How would Pakistan benefit from this IT project?

Ans: This IT park will be one of the biggest and the most advanced business facilities for IT companies in this country. It will be a complete ecosystem with not only office spaces but also accommodation for foreign visitors, gymnasiums, lakes, video-conferencing rooms, auditoriums, food courts, medical centres, daycare centres, open laboratories, banks, shops etc.

The purpose of the project is to provide quality environment where IT companies can work together to foster industry-academia cooperation, promote entrepreneurship and attract foreign direct investment in the IT sector.