The Korea Herald


Finnish envoy looks back on special ties with Korea on fighting COVID-19

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : Dec. 18, 2023 - 20:59

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Finnish Ambassador to Korea Pekka Metso. (Embassy of Finland in Seoul) Finnish Ambassador to Korea Pekka Metso. (Embassy of Finland in Seoul)

Celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties between Finland and Korea, Finnish Ambassador to Korea Pekka Metso talked about hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the collaborative spirit that shaped an enduring relationship between the two nations.

"The COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge faced by mankind as a whole, became a test of our bilateral relations. Finland and Korea worked together for innovative solutions, with test samples sent from Finland to Korea for analysis due to your prime technology," the ambassador stressed, drawing parallels between Finns and Koreans.

"I think we Finns and you Koreans are very much alike. If there is a problem, we are willing to move quickly to look for a solution and improvement," he stated in an interview with The Korea Herald on the occasion of Finland's Independence Day and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Korea.

Finland officially recognized South Korea on April 13, 1973, with diplomatic relations formally established on August 24, 1973. The diplomatic collaboration, initially focused on the paper and pulp industry in the 1970s, underwent substantial evolution. By the 1980s, it extended to the mobile phone industry and has since diversified into sectors including ICT, startups, defense, biotechnology and the circular economy.

To mark the 50th anniversary, President Yoon Suk Yeol and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto exchanged letters in August 2023.

Additionally, the two nations signed a Trade and Investment Promotion Framework in September 2023. The TIPF aims to strengthen bilateral ties in supply chains, the digital economy and various economic and industry sectors, marking the eighth such agreement for South Korea.

Previous TIPF partners include the United Arab Emirates, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Poland and Uzbekistan.

When asked about specific initiatives to strengthen bilateral ties, he emphasized the untapped potential for mutual investments and the desire to increase daily flights between Seoul and Helsinki.

"The richness and potential in Finland-Korea bilateral relations come from the common strengths and shared values we have," Metso said, underscoring that education led Finland and Korea to be world leaders in technology and innovation.

Finland and Korea are both export-oriented technology-based democracies working hard to create solutions for the future in areas like 6G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, he said.

Reflecting on the historical evolution of economic ties, Metso praised the transformation from raw materials to top-notch technology.

According to Metso, the future of economic ties lies in the strong, innovative foundations of both the Korean and Finnish economies.

"Our current joint endeavors can contribute hugely to the future global and our common well-being. We should further embark on a stronger sustainability path together to benefit from global economic opportunities while protecting our fragile planet for future generations."

Metso acknowledged the changing international political and security environment.

He highlighted Finland's recent membership in NATO as a significant development, marking a new era in Finnish security and defense policy.

"Russia's invasion of a sovereign European country, Ukraine, changed Europe and changed Finland," Metso stated emphatically, touching upon shared challenges such as Russia's aggression in Ukraine and emphasizing collaborative efforts to protect shared values.

“There are other challenges we face together, and we have been finding ways to overcome them hand in hand to protect our shared values -- whether we are dealing with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine or working together for a sustainable future,” the Finnish envoy said.