Celebrating 30 years of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Slovakia, the European country's top envoy in Seoul said the country expects more cooperation in the field of battery and electric vehicle production in the near future.
Noting the rapidly developing automotive industry in the country, Slovakia's Ambassador to Korea Jan Kuderjavy said Korean companies could take advantage of a regional financial incentive scheme and a preferential tax regime for research and development.
"Nowadays there are about 100 Korean companies in Slovakia," said Kuderjavy, citing major investments from Kia, Samsung Electronics to Hyundai Mobis.
"To attract (more) Korean companies, Slovakia is determined to support investments with high added value, particularly those with high innovation potential," he said.
Kia established its first manufacturing facility in 2004 in Zilina, Slovakia. The facility covers an area of 1.6 square kilometers and has been the Korean carmaker's major European production base since its opening in December 2006.
According to Kuderjavy, five global car manufacturers have presence in Slovakia: Volkswagen, Stellantis, Kia, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo.
The combined annual output of Volkswagen, Stellantis, Kia and Jaguar Land Rover exceeds 1 million vehicles, Kuderjavy said. Volvo, the latest addition in Slovakia, announced last year it was building a $1.25 billion factory that could produce 250,000 battery-powered EVs a year.
"With 180 cars produced per 1,000 inhabitants, Slovakia, a country with a population of 5.4 million, becomes a world leader," said Kuderjavy, who served as Slovakia's ambassador to France, the Netherlands, and Belgium prior to his appointment as ambassador to Korea in 2019.
He said that for existing and incoming companies, Slovakia offers investment opportunities in the production of batteries for EVs, semiconductors, Industry 4.0, defense and hydrogen.
Slovakia is aiming to deepen mutual cooperation with Korean investments for higher added value, scientific technology and innovation, said Kuderjavy, citing the meeting of Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Chung Euisun and Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger in Bratislava in October last year.
He highlighted Slovakia's strategic location, with highway and rail connections to the main European sales and supply markets, as one of the main factors for investing in Slovakia. He also emphasized the safety of Slovakia in the European region, its role as a Eurozone member state, along with a highly qualified, loyal and skilled workforce as key advantages.
Room for new technologies
Kuderjavy stressed that Slovakia is also looking to cooperate with Korea in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, material research, digitalization, sustainable energy, defense and hydrogen.
Touting the Korean government's efficient online administrative systems, he said it was also thanks to the private sector's assistance and introduction of artificial intelligence technologies. He encouraged Korean firms to share knowledge on the reform process to help accelerate Slovakia's digital transformation.
He cited Slovakia's participation in Smart Tech Korea 2022, a digital innovation and smart technology event held in Coex in June 2022, and Robotworld 2022, Korea's premier exhibition for the robot industry held in October 2022, as fruitful.
The programs allowed Slovakia to network with representatives of Korean robotics, AI companies, the government sector and universities.
Slovakia signed a memorandum of understanding with Jeonbuk National University and another memorandum of understanding with the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology was under discussion, according to Kuderjavy.
The ambassador suggested increasing university student exchange programs between universities to further promote bilateral cooperation.
"As the K-pop wave continues to sweep across the world, Slovaks are more eager to learn more about Korean culture and its language," Kuderjavy said.
"Large numbers of Koreans visit Slovakia to experience local life," Kuderjavy said.
Slovakia co-hosts many events, such as movie, food festivals, Europe Day celebrations and Christmas markets with EU member countries.
With its natural treasures, historical monuments, rich folk culture and modern entertainment, Slovakia has a lot to offer, Kuderjavy said.
"Slovakia has always been an important trade and cultural intersection," said Kuderjavy, highlighting his country’s geographical position, influences and remnants of Western as well as eastern cultures and religions.
Among the country's 220 castles and castle ruins, two of the most famous are Bojnice Castle and Spis Castle. Both are UNESCO world heritage sites and Spis Castle is also one of the world's 10 largest castles.
One thing not to miss in Slovakia is their regional dishes, in particular, the traditional cuisine made with cheese and milk products from the mountain areas, Kuderjavy said.
"Bryndzove halusky means for the Slovaks the same as kimchi means for Koreans," said Kuderjavy, drawing parallels between Korean gastronomy and the Slovak national meal.
Bryndzove halusky consists of dumplings made of potato dough mixed with a special kind of soft and salty sheep curd, said Kuderjavy.
He also introduced a unique Slovak alcoholic drink called Tatratea, a unique herbal tea liqueur.
Tatratea, which originated in the Tatra Mountains that border Slovakia and Poland, has alcohol content ranging from 17 percent to 72 percent and an array of enticing flavors.
"Everyone can find a Tatratea to suit his or her taste," Kuderjavy said, inviting Korean tourists to discover the beauty of Slovakia in the post-COVID-19 era.
Meanwhile, Kuderjavy said economic cooperation has been the center of gravity in the past 30 years of Slovakia-Korea relations, as Korean companies began investing in Slovakia 20 years ago.
"Korea adheres to the same values and principles as Slovakia and other EU and NATO countries -- democracy, rule of law, a market economy and respect for human rights," said the Slovak envoy.