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[Herald Interview] Slovenian deputy PM inaugurates embassy, looks to fresh cooperationBy Sanjay Kumar
Published : July 11, 2023 - 14:42
Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister Tanja Fajon expressed hope for enhanced bilateral cooperation between Slovenia and Korea.
Fajon led an official delegation to Korea from June 28 to July 1, where she officially inaugurated Slovenia's newly established permanent mission in Seoul.
The opening ceremony was attended by a Slovenian delegation including: Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport Matjaz Han, representatives of Slovenian enterprises, the SPIRIT Slovenia Business Development Agency, the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and representatives of the Slovenian animated film industry.
Fajon underscored Slovenia's commitment to strengthening its existing relationship with South Korea in an interview with The Korea Herald.
Slovenia established official diplomatic ties with Korea on November 18, 1992.
But until recently, Seoul and Ljubljana had no diplomatic missions. The Slovenian Embassy in Japan and the Korean Embassy in Austria served as the two countries' respective missions until the opening of the Slovenian Embassy in Seoul.
Korea still doesn't have an embassy in Slovenia.
Fajon expressed hope for the early establishment of a Korean Embassy in Slovenia during the Korea-Slovenia foreign ministers' meeting in Seoul.
Fajon held talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and discussed substantive bilateral cooperation on the international stage, as well as key regional issues.
Fajon also serves as the minister of foreign and European affairs.
"I see potential for further progress," Fajon told The Korea Herald in an interview, highlighting that Slovenia and Korea are traditionally vital partners due to shared values and common interests in addressing global challenges and contributing to world peace and stability, particularly in the United Nations Security Council.
I hoped for new bilateral milestones between Slovenia and Korea, with numerous opportunities, she added.
According to Fajon, the Slovenian government established the mission to facilitate business, culture, education, tourism, research and digitalization, creating an environment to strengthen people-to-people contacts, according to Fajon.
"I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this important milestone than opening an embassy in Seoul," Fajon said, noting the timeliness of her delegation's visit this year.
Fajon talked about her experience listening to the Slovenian and Korean anthems beautifully interpreted by a Slovenian opera singer at the opening ceremony of Slovenia's new embassy here.
She also highlighted the growing popularity of K-pop, Korean culture, K-dramas and Korean gastronomy in Slovenia, indicating an increasing interest among Slovenians in visiting Korea.
Recalling a hike on Bugak Mountain with Park -- who shares the hobby of mountain climbing with Fajon -- on July 1 before returning to Slovenia, Fajon noted the shared love for nature, hiking and mountain climbing of both Slovenians and Koreans.
Hiking the famous granite mountain in northern Seoul provided an extraordinary view of Seoul, said Fajon.
With mountaineering as a common outdoor sport in both countries, she anticipated that Koreans would enjoy hiking in Slovenia and that the number of Korean tourists visiting Slovenia would rise soon, returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Slovenia is well known for its mountain ranges and forests, high level of biodiversity, nature-loving people and government policies prioritizing nature protection, and is one of the most sustainable tourist destinations in the world.
In a bid to boost economic diplomacy, Fajon visited Kia Namyang R&D Center in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, and met with Kia President and CEO Song Ho-sung.
Fajon emphasized the significance of the automotive industry as an important link between the Slovenian and Korean economies after seeing Kia's future mobility technologies such as electric, hydrogen and self-driving vehicles.
"As elected members of the UN Security Council in 2024-25, Slovenia and Korea have taken over a big responsibility and have very important tasks ahead," Fajon stated, underscoring Slovenia and Korea’s commitment to multilateralism and respect for international law, particularly the UN Charter.
Regarding discussions with Korea on nuclear power plants and science technology, Fajon mentioned Slovenia's belief that nuclear energy can help achieve climate neutrality.
Slovenia has adopted a climate strategy resolution to transition to net-zero emissions and become climate neutral by 2050.
She stated that Slovenia's national energy and climate plan aims to make a final decision on building a new nuclear power plant by 2027 at the latest. The country has one nuclear power plant that began commercial operations under the former Yugoslavia in 1983.
Fajon emphasized transparency and providing information to the people during the decision-making process, as well as exploring different options that include Korean technologies.
Fajon discussed the agreement signed between the South Korean port city of Busan and the Slovenian port of Koper to produce tangible achievements in the field of port logistics.
The agreement is seen as a breakthrough for mutual development as Busan is building a world-class tri-port complex logistics system and Koper is emerging as a maritime logistics hub city in Central and Eastern Europe.
"Busan and Koper serve as gates to the world for Slovenia and Korea," she said stressing the importance of strengthening cooperation between the two cities.
"Slovenia and Korea are export-oriented and we need strong cooperation between ourselves," she added.
Cooperation for Human Security and Women
Fajon highlighted the upcoming term of Slovenia and Korea in the UN Security Council as an excellent opportunity to foster cooperation in human security and for women.
South Korea was elected as the chair country of the advisory board of ITF Enhancing Human Security at its 50th meeting in Slovenia on April 4.
ITF is a non-profit organization established in 1998 by the Slovenian government to help clear land contaminated with landmines.
According to the foreign ministry, Korea has supported ITF since 2000 and contributed approximately $380,000 in 2022, for a cumulative contribution of $2.2 million.
Meanwhile, Fajon also visited Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul during her visit and expressed interest in forging educational exchanges with Slovenia.
"There is room for more concrete cooperation with some Slovenian universities," said Fajon.
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