Central America encouraged Korea to launch negotiations for a free trade pact with its regional grouping, and pointed to the first half of next year as a target date at a reception on Wednesday celebrating the region’s collective Independence Day.
Four of the five Central American nations that observe their independence day on the same date encouraged Korea to act on tying their nations closer with a trade pact as they celebrated 191 years of independence and 50 years of strong diplomatic ties with Korea at the Grand Hilton Hotel Seoul.
The embassies of Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Honduras celebrated their independence day, which falls on Sept. 15, in a reception with expatriates, foreign envoys, friends of Central America and Korean executives and government officials.
Nicaragua conducts its diplomatic relations with Korea from its mission in Japan and does not have an embassy in Seoul.
Guatemalan Ambassador to Korea Rafael Salazar delivered the welcoming remarks on behalf of his counterparts Hector Gonzalez Urrutia of El Salvador, Manuel Lopez Trigo of Costa Rica and Michel Idiaquez Baradat of Honduras.
The five Central American countries which celebrate their Independence Day on the same day are united by geography, history and freedom, as well as the Spanish language, Catholicism and “the spirit of brotherhood,” Salazar said.
Salazar pointed to the Central American Integration System (SICA) for evidence of close ties among the five nations, the largest regional grouping after the European Union, as it also includes Panama, the Dominican Republic and Belize.
Salazar said SICA’s association agreement with the EU is further proof the group is more than a trade bloc. Beyond trade and commerce, SICA’s goals include the preservation of the nation’s independence, democracy, human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, and the preservation of the natural environment, he said.
Central America has the second-largest nature reserve in the world, after the Amazon in South America.
Some 20,000 Koreans migrated to Central America in the1980s, as well as about 700 mostly textile and clothing companies, said Kim Kyou-hyun, deputy minister for political affairs, in remarks delivered at the reception.
Korea has recently become an observer member of SICA and it hosted a conference this year with Central American security agencies titled “The Seminar for Security Cooperation between Central America and Korea.”
The “Maya 21” exhibition organized by the Salvadorian Embassy at the National Museum of Korea, and a state visit by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com)