Mexican Ambassador to South Korea Bruno Figueroa (Embassy of Mexico in Seoul)
This month, Mexico commemorates 200 years of independence. Heir to millenary civilizations, Mexico has risen to become one of the 20 most populous and largest countries on the planet, both in terms of area and economy, strategically located in the Americas, between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
At these difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilient and optimistic nature of the Mexican people is once more affirmed. Mexico has been a strong advocate from the beginning -- along with Korea -- of fairer universal access to vaccines and treatments against the coronavirus.
Although Mexico and Korea are separated by the vastest ocean of all, links between both peoples have been outstanding for a long time. More than a hundred years ago, about 1,000 Koreans arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula in southeast Mexico to work in the sisal haciendas.
Today, the strong Korean community in Mexico of about 15,000 thrives from north to south. In the core of Mexico City, a new Koreatown has emerged in only the last couple of decades. During the Korean War (1950-1953), more than 100,000 soldiers of Mexican origin were part of the United States’ military forces under the flag of the United Nations, a little-known fact of history.
Since 2005, the two countries have maintained a strategic partnership for mutual prosperity that has undoubtedly contributed to the strengthening of the relationship in all areas in the past 16 years. In the political sphere, bilateral exchanges between the two governments have notably developed, as evidenced by the constant political dialogue and high-level reciprocal visits.
Mexico and Korea are two well-respected and active members of the international community, with common membership in multinational organizations including the Group of 20 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in which they have jointly promoted initiatives on topics such as peace and security, protection of human rights, fight against climate change and sustainable development. Both countries are committed to defending multilateralism to find the solutions needed to address the global challenges.
In terms of economic ties, with an annual trade flow of more than $20 billion, Korea ranks fourth among Mexico‘s trading partners and Mexico is the first trading partner of Korea in Latin America. On the other hand, Mexico is an important recipient of Korean investment, with an increase of 144 percent in the last five years, surpassing $7 billion today. Stakeholders in both countries are aware of the increasing relevance of these economic ties and the deeper integration to sectors of high added value and with greater levels of complementarity currently taking place. This certainly contributes to make the case for a future economic and trade agreement that is comprehensive and broad in scope.
Additionally, exchanges and cooperation between our societies in both countries have expanded in the fields of culture, education, technology and public policy, among other areas. Mexico‘s presence in Korea has increased thanks to the growing interest in each other’s culture, including the arts and gastronomy.
Another area that has expanded rapidly and has the greatest potential to be a catalyst in bilateral ties is the exchange of students and faculty due to an intense collaboration between Mexican and Korean institutions of higher education. The pandemic has halted the growth of some of these exchanges, especially tourism, but I am confident that once the world is over it, the upward trend will continue.
In 2022, Mexico and Korea will celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations. It will be an opportunity to acknowledge the progress and strength of our bilateral ties, as well as to reflect on the future course to continue bringing benefits to both societies. Our nations will capitalize on their shared values and interests to further deepen the relationship and reinvigorate their strategic partnership in the years ahead. We can look with confidence at the 200 years ahead.
Bruno Figueroa is the Mexican ambassador to South Korea. He contributed this column for The Korea Herald. -- Ed.