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[Contribution] Looking back on 35 years of ties on the occasion of Serbia's National Day

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 15, 2024 - 17:56

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Serbian Ambassador Nemanja Grbic Serbian Ambassador Nemanja Grbic

By Nemanja Grbic, Serbian ambassador to Korea

As the Embassy of Serbia in Seoul proudly celebrates its National Day together with the small Serbian community living here, as well as our Korean friends, it is an opportunity to once again recall the close and decadeslong friendly relations that so happily exist between our two countries and two peoples.

Statehood Day or National Day is celebrated every Feb. 15 in Serbia to commemorate the outbreak of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, which evolved into the Serbian Revolution against Ottoman rule. The revolution ultimately resulted in the recognition of Serbia's autonomy (1817) and later independence (1878) from the Ottoman Empire. On the same day in 1835, the first modern Serbian constitution was adopted.

The two countries are also celebrating an important jubilee this year -- 35 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, back in 1989. Since the establishment of the diplomatic relations, Serbia and Korea maintained close and mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in various areas. This fact was recently further reconfirmed through bilateral exchanges at the highest level -- namely, meetings of President Aleksandar Vucic and President Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the WEF in Davos in January last year and on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York last September. A major impetus to our overall bilateral exchanges was the official visit of Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to Korea in September last year and the substantial talks she had with her counterpart Han Duck-soo. The visit yielded significant results such as the Bilateral Investment Treaty, along with a memorandum of understanding with SK Bioscience. The priority topics on the agenda of the meetings were economic cooperation, as well as cooperation in the fields of AI, agriculture, biotechnology, creative industries etc. As a follow-up to the visit, we are expecting an MOU on Friendship and Cooperation to be signed between City of Novi Sad and the City of Busan, as well as conclusion of an MOU in the field of ICT and creative industries between the Serbia Creates national platform and Busan ICT Promotion Agency. A memorandum of understanding on innovation-based economy is also being negotiated and should be signed at the next convenient occasion.

On the economic front, I am happy to note that, cooperation between Serbia and Korea remained successful and robust. Trade volume grew 49-fold within the last decade, with overall Serbian exports to Korea rising to an impressive 13-fold in comparison to 2018. Serbia remains the second-largest exporter of non-GMO corn and the third-largest exporter of frozen berries to Korea. Overall bilateral trade exchange exceeded $550 million last year, but undoubtedly there is vast room for further expansion of our economic ties. Serbia has a lot to offer to potential Korean investors in ICT, renewable energy, AI, agriculture and other fields. The official opening of negotiations on an economic partnership agreement is tentatively scheduled for the second half of this year and, once signed, the EPA will mark the beginning of a completely new chapter of our bilateral economic cooperation.

Since Korea is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Serbia hopes for constructive cooperation within the world organization, based on respect for the principles of international law and the UN Charter, specifically in the issues of substantial importance to each of the two countries.

Last year was also successful when it comes to strengthening people-to-people cooperation and exchange. In this context, I would like to emphasize that the first Korea-Serbia Friendship Association was founded a few months ago. The idea is for the Association to be open to all interested members, but its backbone will be the younger generations of Koreans, who in the future will be the bearers of political, economic and social trends in this country.

As it seems that the tourism sector is now fully recovered after being heavily hit by the pandemic and a large number of Koreans starting to pick and choose their new travel destinations, I am confident that there is a lot Serbia has to offer. Despite being a country abundant in rich historical heritage, serene nature, delicious food and warmhearted people, Serbia still remains undiscovered for many Koreans and I hope this will change in the near future.

At the very end, I would like to express my sincerest wishes for the health, prosperity and success of your readers in this Year of the Blue Dragon.

Views expressed in the article are his own. -- Ed.