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[Herald Interview] ‘Green economy common priority for Bulgaria, Korea’

Petko Draganov, Bulgarian ambassador to South Korea, poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Yongsan, Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Petko Draganov, Bulgarian ambassador to South Korea, poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Yongsan, Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
South Korea’s drive to achieve carbon neutrality is an opportunity to create deeper and wider ties between Seoul and Sofia, the Bulgarian ambassador to Korea says.

“The shift to a sustainable green economy based on clean energy is a common priority for Bulgaria and Korea,” Petko Draganov, Bulgarian ambassador to Korea, said during an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Yongsan, Seoul.

“Our country promotes the European Green Deal,” he said, referring to policy initiatives to achieve a carbon-neutral European Union by 2050. The European Commission revealed them in 2019.

President Moon Jae-in unveiled his Green New Deal the following year, pledging to make the country run on renewables rather than fossil fuels. And this month, he promised $7 billion in aid to make that happen.

But the path to securing renewables for Bulgaria and Korea will not be quite the same, as the European country has already made some headway. Renewables make up 24 percent of Bulgaria’s energy compared with 6.5 percent for Korea.

“I see a new and vast domain of collaboration and joint ventures, focusing on green investments and sectors such as clean transport, green energy, recycling,” Draganov said, adding that seven companies in Bulgaria are already working with Korean firms on those new technologies.

He highlighted moving away from “dirty energy” and the need to change the way people live and work.

“If anything, this COVID-19 pandemic has proven that we can,” he said, noting the global health crisis has upended all the routines of everyday life but people responded with change.

“It’s a question of a will,” Draganov said. “Climate change is a fact of life. ... People don’t need reports from the UN to see the climate change is affecting their lives.” The ambassador then pointed to his official car outside -- a Kia electric vehicle, which he said would be his choice of transportation from now on.

“For the sake of our own life and the life of our children and grandchildren, we need to act now,” he said.

Draganov said Korea and Bulgaria have more bases to cover together than just a green economy. He said Bulgaria has avoided the brunt of an extended downturn over the pandemic, adding that it shows Sofia’s growth could pick up speed with foreign investment at the right time.

“Korea ranks in the top 30 foreign investors in Bulgaria -- but we can do better,” he said, noting that Bulgaria serves as a bridge between the EU, Turkey and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

As a member of the EU that borders Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east, Bulgaria offers access to over 1.3 billion consumers at a “favorable geographical location,” according to Draganov.

The ambassador stressed that his government’s strong political will would be another incentive for Seoul to seek broader engagement with Sofia in expanding economic ties.

“This was expressed at the highest political level, during the 2019 visit to Seoul by the Bulgarian prime minister,” he said. The Bulgarian prime minister met Moon on his first trip here since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990.

“There are two important political events on the top of our agenda -- the pending visit by the Bulgarian foreign minister to Korea and a visit to Bulgaria by President Moon Jae-in,” Draganov said, adding he hoped to see both happen this year, as they were pushed back the previous year because of COVID-19.

The exchanges will give the right “go ahead” signal to the companies and businesspeople in Korea and Bulgaria to build an enhanced economic partnership in seeking a green economy, the ambassador said.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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