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[Herald Interview] Colombia eyes stronger ties with Korea in agriculture, culture, environment

Rodolfo Enrique Zea, Colombian minister of agriculture and rural development (Colombian government)
Rodolfo Enrique Zea, Colombian minister of agriculture and rural development (Colombian government)

For many South Koreans, coffee is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Colombia.
 
As one of the largest coffee producers in the world, Colombia enjoys a presence in cafes here with fresh, high-quality coffee beans that feed this coffee-loving nation.
 
Along with coffee, there are many more areas where the two countries can share what they have to offer, said visiting high-ranking officials from Colombia last week. These include agriculture, trade, culture and the environment.
 
Rodolfo Enrique Zea, minister of agriculture and rural development, and Adriana Padilla Leal, vice minister of creativity and orange economy, were in Korea last week to attend the Korea-LAC Digital Cooperation Forum. Along with officials from Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras and Costa Rica, they discussed ways that Korea and the Central and South American countries could partner on digital technology.
 
“Colombia doesn’t want to expand more agricultural land. But it wants to adopt digital technology and strategy to improve productivity, or consider eco-friendly methods of developing its agriculture,” Zea told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on Friday. “Through cooperation with Korea’s technology and experience, we hope to achieve digitalization in agriculture, which will be helpful in developing the industry going forward.”
 
During his stay here, Zea met with Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways for the two countries to partner on the environment and digital innovation.
 
“We talked about how Colombia and Korea are a brother nation, and also talked about business opportunities for South Korean companies to take part in Colombia,” Zea said, referring to the country’s metro project in the city of Medellin, in which Moon showed great interest in having Korean firms take part. 
 
If the COVID-19 situation improves, Colombian President Ivan Duque plans to visit Korea in August and meet with Moon, said Zea. Agriculture, the environment, green growth, digital technology, artificial intelligence and agriculture would all be on the agenda.
 
With Seoul hosting the upcoming P4G summit on green growth and sustainable development, the two countries have much to share to achieve a sustainable environment in the future, he added. Colombia intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by around 50 percent by 2030, and also hopes to host the next P4G summit in 2023.
 
Zea also met with Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general and current chairman of the Global Green Growth Institute, to discuss partnering with the GGGI to implement climate-smart agriculture technologies in Colombia.
 
Among the many tasks accomplished during his trip, Zea said one of the most noteworthy was witnessing Colombian avocados passing the necessary inspection to gain clearance from the Korean government to make their debut here.
 
Since the two nations signed a free trade agreement five years ago, Colombia has made all-out efforts to tap into the avocado market here.
 
“It’s a great feat for Colombia and also a great opportunity for South Koreans to be able to enjoy great flavors of Colombian avocado.”

 
Adriana Padilla Leal, Colombian vice minister of creativity and orange economy (Colombian government)
Adriana Padilla Leal, Colombian vice minister of creativity and orange economy (Colombian government)

Meanwhile, Padilla Leal said President Duque’s envisioned trip to Korea would be a chance for more cooperation between the two nations in the areas of arts and culture.
 
“When it comes to arts and culture, I hope Colombia serves as a gateway of Latin America for Korea, while Korea serves as a gateway for Asia for Colombia, vice versa,” she said.
 
With Duque’s focus on expanding the country’s creative industries, termed the “orange economy” there, the cultural and creative sector is expanding quickly in Colombia, providing more opportunities for international investors as well, she stressed.
 
Korean producers who are interested in filming movies, TV programs and other content in Colombia can enjoy a number of incentives, including hefty tax breaks. Recently, a Korean movie titled “Bogota,” starring Song Joong-ki, was filmed in Colombia. Another flick, “Dream,” is slated to be filmed in the country as well.
 
Padilla Leal said she also hoped Korea would attend the Bogota International Book Fair, one of the largest book fairs in Latin America, as a special guest, and that they would organize more exchanges in areas such as exhibitions, the arts and creative content.
 
“From culture to cuisine and every cultural aspect, there are many areas the two countries can share,” she said, adding that during Duque’s visit, the two countries are planning to sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in literature and the arts.
 
By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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