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Ex-Korean envoy receives Pakistan’s highest civilian honor

The Pakistani Embassy, in collaboration with the Korean government and Pakistan Business Association Korea, held its Azadi Mela national day reception Sunday in Seoul, commemorating 71 years of independence.

While Pakistan celebrates its liberation from the British Raj and Hindu dominion on Aug. 14, Korea remembers its independence from colonial Japan on Aug. 15.

The two countries share experiences of colonialism, emancipation and partition, which have inspired their postwar international engagement, according to the embassy.

Azadi Mela means the “festival of independence” in Urdu. The event drew some 2,000 people, mostly Pakistanis and Koreans, and featured the two nations’ traditional cuisines, costumes and handicrafts, as well as music and dance performances.

One of the event’s highlights was an award ceremony for Dr. Song Jong-hwan, former Korean ambassador to Pakistan from 2013-16, who was bestowed Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Sitara-e-Pakistan, by Pakistani Ambassador to Korea Rahim Hayat Qureshi, on behalf of President Mamnoon Hussain.

“This award shows that Pakistan has huge respect for the Korean people and their beautiful culture, as well as Korea’s miraculous economic development,” said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani student in Korea who formerly represented his country on TV talk show “Non-Summit,” at the event.

“The award also shows that Pakistan wants Korea to stand with her on its path of rapid economic growth. Pakistanis look forward to seeing the governments of Pakistan and Korea work closely together and create an environment for their mutual benefit.”

Song is the first Korean to receive the honor, which has been conferred upon only a handful of foreigners, according to the embassy.

The diplomat was recognized for strengthening bilateral ties in comprehensive areas, encompassing commercial, cultural and educational exchanges. In particular, his role in helping establish the $100 million Information Technology Park in Islamabad has been regarded as the cornerstone of his ambassadorship, said Zahid Hussain.

By Joel Lee (
Korea Herald Youtube