Ecuadorian Ambassador Adrian Kao speaks during a recent interview with The Korea Herald at the Embassy of Ecuador in Jongno-gu, Seoul, March 30.(Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
South Korea and Ecuador are complimentary economies with potential for wider cooperation, Ecuadorian Ambassador Adrian Kao said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
“There is a natural fit for deeper engagement between Ecuador and Korea,” Kao said, inviting Korean companies and institutions to consider Ecuador as a partner and to invest in Ecuador.
Kao said that more than 20 Korean companies operated in Ecuador in infrastructure construction, consulting, natural resources, security and other sectors.
The two countries do not have a free trade agreement yet, but Ecuador and South Korea have restarted negotiations for a strategic economic cooperation agreement, which Kao says would cover a broader spectrum of issues than an FTA.
“We expect to finish the negotiations at the end of this year,” the ambassador said.
Kao mentioned Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso’s initiatives for new investments in various sectors, including agri-food, hydrocarbons, oil and gas refining, precious metals mining, telecommunications and energy and infrastructure. Based on this, Kao introduced project portfolios created by the Ecuadorian government for international investors and financial institutions such as the Santiago hydroelectric project, Cardenillo hydroelectric project, the national train system, Esmeraldas oil refinery, high conversion refinery, and the Sacha petroleum block.
A logo commemorating the 60th anniversary of Korean-Latin American diplomatic relations (Embassy of Costa Rica in Seoul)
According to Kao, South Korea is a strategic partner for Ecuador in the international arena. South Korea is not only one of Ecuador’s most important trade partners, but also a substantial partner for technological innovation.
In regard to COVID-19, Kao thanked South Korea for the humanitarian assistance it provided to Ecuador. He applauded South Korea’s discipline, knowledge and determination to overcome any crisis.
“As Korea emerges from its most recent peak of COVID infections, we wish to express our solidarity and sympathy to those affected,” said Kao, complimenting the resilience of the Korean population.
Noting that the end of the pandemic is near, the ambassador expressed his wish for the two countries to continue bilateral relations many years into the future.
Kao also noted that Ecuador’s vaccination program was one of the most successful in the world, with a vaccination rate of over 93 percent of the population, including children under 5 years old.
Ecuador and South Korea’s long history of mutual cooperation started during the Korean War, when Ecuador donated several tons of rice, medicine and food to South Korea. Many years later, when Ecuador was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea helped by donating masks and other personal protective equipment, medical supplies, PCR tests and knowledge and support. This positioned South Korea as the country that provided the fourth most assistance to Ecuador, according to Kao.
Discussing the tradition of political, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries, Kao said despite the adversities of COVID-19 in 2020, Ecuador hosted the first exhibition of original paintings by Oswaldo Guayasamin, the country’s most celebrated artist. Ecuador also coordinated several high-level visits of officials, including the visit of then-Minister of Foreign Relations Luis Gallegos to South Korea.
Looking forward to 2022, Kao said he hoped to strengthen diplomatic, political, commercial and cultural ties. He hoped for the two countries to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the long tradition of cooperation on important issues and economic agreements.
Meanwhile, the ambassador also hinted that the Ecuadorian president could visit South Korea at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.This interview is a part of The Korea Herald’s interviews commemorating 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between of Korea and 13 Latin American countries with embassies in Seoul. -- Ed
By Sanjay Kumar (firstname.lastname@example.org