H.E. CHOO Jong-youn, Korean Ambassador to Colombia, hands over Korean government medals to Ms. Marta Lucia Ramirez, Colombia's Vice President and Foreign Minister, and Mr. Francisco Javier Echeverri, Vice Minister, at Salon Bolivar in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia
H.E. CHOO Jong-youn, Korean Ambassador to Colombia, hands over Korean government medals to Ms. Marta Lucia Ramirez, Colombia's Vice President and Foreign Minister, and Mr. Francisco Javier Echeverri, Vice Minister, at Salon Bolivar in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia

Brief History of the 60th Anniversary of Korea-Colombia Diplomatic Relations

Korea established diplomatic relations with Colombia and other 14 Latin American countries in 1962 and this year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties with 15 countries including Colombia. Although official diplomatic relations were established with Colombia in 1962, the Korean embassy was opened in Bogota in 1971 and H.E. Ahn Jin-saeng was appointed as the first residing Korean ambassador to Colombia in 1973. Before his appointment, the Korean ambassador to the United States was in charge of Colombia, too. At that time, Colombian ambassador to Japan was also in charge of Korea. It was after 1978 that H.E. Bernardo Echeverri Ossa was recorded as the first residing Colombian ambassador to Korea.
Although this year marks the 60th anniversary of the official establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and Colombia, the de facto cooperative relationship began in 1951 when Colombia sent combat troops to fight in the Korean War. Therefore, this year actually marks the 71st anniversary of bilateral partnership between Korea and Colombia. Colombia was the only Latin American country to send more than 5,000 soldiers to Korea, of which 245 soldiers died or disappeared. Such historical facts have played a pivotal role in binding the peoples of the two countries emotionally. Both governments have also built friendly and close relations based on such historical facts.
Nevertheless, practical cooperation between the two countries began to materialize since 2010. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' state visit to Korea in 2011 and President Lee Myung Bak's visit to Colombia in 2012 triggered bilateral relations to leap forward to a partnership stronger than ever before. It was the first South Korean president’s visit to Colombia. Although Colombia was one of the 16 countries participating in the Korean War, the Korean president's visit was realized late due to security problems caused by Colombia's civil war. Thanks to President Santos' visit to Korea in 2011, the Korea-Colombia relationship was upgraded to a strategic cooperative partnership.
Since 2010, efforts to institutionalize bilateral relations have been actively carried out. A total of 80 agreements or MOUs were signed from January 2010 to May 2022. Seven of them are inter-governmental agreements (EDCF loan agreements, double taxation prevention agreements, investment guarantee agreements, free trade agreements, driver's license mutual recognition agreements, public health cooperation agreements, and EDCF activity agreements). In particular, the Korea-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which was officially signed in February 2013, served as the basis for solidifying the economic cooperation between the two countries. Many cooperative documents between the two countries are signed on the occasion of mutual visits by high-ranking officials. Most recently, an MOU for sports cooperation was signed between the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Colombian Ministry of Sports on April 19th 2022, and also another MOU for cooperation was signed between Korea's National Institute of Civil Service Human Resources Development (NHI) and Colombia's Institute of Public Administration (ESAP).
The signing of 80 agreements or MOUs means that the exchange of high-ranking personnel of the two countries was very active. Since 2011, a total of eight visits have been made between the two countries by the president, vice president, and prime minister. Those are the most frequent visits made by government head officials among Latin American countries. In August 2021, 12 agreements and MOUs were signed in the wake of President Ivan Duque's state visit to Korea, and the joint declarations of the summit with 41 clauses were issued. The joint declaration became a touchstone for Korea-Colombia relations for the future.

CHOO Jong-youn Ambassador transfer Korean government medals to Ms. Marta Lucia Ramirez, Colombia's Vice President & Foreign Minister  and , Mr Francisco Javier Echeverri Vice Minister at Salon Bolivar in the Ministry
CHOO Jong-youn Ambassador transfer Korean government medals to Ms. Marta Lucia Ramirez, Colombia's Vice President & Foreign Minister and , Mr Francisco Javier Echeverri Vice Minister at Salon Bolivar in the Ministry

Major events for Colombia-Korea 60th anniversary. 

□ Exchange of congratulatory messages and medals for high-ranking officials of the two countries
On March 10th, the day of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, messages were exchanged between Korean President Moon Jae-In and Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque and between Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez. In addition to celebrating the 60th anniversary, high-ranking officials of the two countries expressed satisfaction with the friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries and vowed to develop further the relationship in the future.
On the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, an exchange of medals was made for high-ranking officials of the two countries who contributed to the progress of bilateral relations. South Korea awarded the Order of Merit, Gwang-hwa to Colombian Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez and Defense Minister Diego Molano, and the Order of Merit, Heung-in to Vice Foreign Minister Francisco Echeverri. The Vice President and Foreign Minister visited Korea in 2019 and 2021 during her term, helping expand the scope of Korea-Colombia cooperation, while the Defense Minister also helped expand bilateral military exchanges and strengthen cooperation in the defense sector. The Colombian government awarded Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination Koo Yun-cheol the Grand Cruz, the Order of San Carlos, and Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun the Grand Official, the Order of San Carlos. Meanwhile, the Colombian Senate also awarded the Order of Democracy, the Grand Comendador to the Korean Embassy in Colombia.
□ Korea's Participation in the International Book Fair in Bogota (FILBO 2022) 
When President Ivan Duque visited Korea in August 2021, the two countries agreed to invite their counterparts as the country of guest of honour to the Bogota International Book Fair (April 19-May 2) and the Seoul International Book Fair (June 1-5) to be held in 2022 on the 60th anniversary. Accordingly, Korea sent a delegation of more than 100 people, including novelists, poets, translators, scientists, scholars, public officials, artists, and members of the Korean Literature and Translation Institute to the Bogota International Book Fair held at Corferias, Bogota. Mr. Hwang Hee, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism also visited Colombia to attend the Bogota International Book Exhibition and the opening ceremony of the Korean Pavilion, met with the Colombian Culture Minister Angelica Mayolo, and signed the MOU for the promotion of Korea-Colombia Sports Cooperation. Kim Bok-hee Korean dance troupe visited Colombia and performed twice at ‘Teatro Colo’n’, Colombian National Theater. Besides, traditional performers and puppet performers performed samulnori, mask dance, and traditional dance in three venues, and Seo Ui-cheol performed traditional Korean music at the Korean Pavilion at the International Exhibition Hall.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also visited the international exhibition to introduce his book ‘Resolved’ and gave several lectures on climate change, SDGs, improvement of women's status and youth, bringing synergy to Korea's participation in the Bogota International Book Fair. Statistics by the Colombian authorities involved revealed that more than 300,000 visitors attended the Korean Pavilion, and all Korean publications were sold out within five days of the opening of the Korean Pavilion. In addition, interview with Korean writers were extensively reported in the Colombian media, and the participation of the Bogota International Book Fair as a guest country was the greatest achievement in Korea's public diplomacy with Colombia.
Various programs have been held and are in progress as academic events. The Embassy of Colombia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, and Santo Tomas University held a Korean Lecture, while Los Andes University, Rosario University, and Externado University held events such as Semester of Korea, Month of Korea or Korea Week. The Association of Korean Studies in Colombia, which consists of 26 universities, also held an essay contest and plans to hold a seminar for the 60th anniversary in the second half of this year. Meanwhile, the  Embassy of Korea in Colombia will publish a booklet to commemorate the 60th anniversary with Colombia's Foreign Ministry and the Colombian Embassy in Korea, and the authors are currently writing papers on the development of Korea-Colombia relations over the next 60 years from now. The booklet will be published in Korean in Seoul and Spanish in Bogota later this year.
Early October this year, there will be a performance by Seoul Traditional Gugak Orchestra, and a concert by soprano Park Hye-sang is also scheduled. The year 2022 also marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of a friendly city relationship between Seoul and Bogota. Meanwhile, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Colombia, the National Museum of Korea will hold a Korean Ceramic Exhibition (September 8, 2022 - February 20, 2023) at the Gold Museum in Bogota. The year of 2022 will be recorded as the de facto cultural and academic year between the two countries.

Ambassador Choo Jong-youn visits fishery company in Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia
Ambassador Choo Jong-youn visits fishery company in Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia

Major activities and achievements since the inauguration of the ambassador

On June 6, 2020, I was appointed as the 22nd Korean ambassador to Colombia for the second time. From March 2011 to October 2014, I served as the 19th Ambassador to Colombia for three years and seven months. It was an area where I once worked as an ambassador, so I was familiar with both work and the environment. I was appointed when Covid19 was active, so at first my activities were limited considerably.
I focused on diversifying bilateral relations and making future-oriented cooperation. Korea signed the health and medical cooperation agreement(Acuerdo sobre Cooperacion en el Campo de la Salud Publica para la Prevencion y Respuesta a Enfermedades) with Colombia for the first time since the outbreak of Covid 19. Projects such as supplying more than $10 million worth of medical equipment and training for the medical service personnel have been implemented on four occasions. In the pharmaceutical sector, Celltrion and Seegene of Korea have opened their branches in Bogota.
Cooperation on diversifying life is under way between the two countries. In 2021, a webinar was held between the Korea Institute of Biotechnology and the Humboldt Institute in Colombia. The purpose is to develop medicines, cosmetics, and food products by utilizing Colombia's abundant genetic resources. Private companies from both countries also participated in the webinar to seek practical cooperation. The green hydrogen (hidro'geno verde) is another  promising sector. The Colombian Hydrogen Association, formed in 2021, will attend the Hydrogen Forum in Korea in May 2022. The Colombian Hydrogen Association has decided to participate in the “Global Hydrogen Alliance (GHIAA)” led by the hydrogen fusion alliance (H2 Korea), a public-private consultative body to revitalize Korea's hydrogen supply. An MOU for cooperation between the Colombian Hydrogen Association and Korea's H2Korea is also being discussed. Defense cooperation between the two countries is also important. As Colombia is facing severe security threats and Korea has high defense technology, win-win cooperation in the defense sector between the two countries could be possible.
Cooperation on infrastructure between the two countries is also important. At the time of my first tenure of office as an ambassador to Colombia, Korean companies won three infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million, but since then, Korean companies have not received orders for large-scale projects. Therefore, the Embassy of Korea is trying to support Korean companies and provide all the necessary information. As of May 2022, I expect Korean companies to participate in the construction of Bogota Metro Line 2, Canoas sewage treatment plant, the construction of the Medellin city light rail, and the construction of a thermal power plant at the Cerro Matoso nickel mine. The Contractor for the $9.2 billion Bogota Metro Line 2 construction project is expected to be selected by the end of 2023 and for the $1.15 billion Canoas sewage treatment plant in the first quarter of 2023. Cooperation in the shipbuilding sector is also promising. The Embassy of Korea supports long-term and strategic cooperation between the Korea’s mid-sized companies and Colombian shipyards. In line with this, KOICA is also pushing ahead with projects such as policy and technical cooperation and manpower training in the shipbuilding sector for Colombian shipyards.

Prospects for the expansion of bilateral investment and trade opportunity

Since the Korea-Colombia FTA took effect on July 15, 2016, trade between the two countries reached $1.6 billion in 2021. Considering the fact that trade volume was $1.45 billion in 2015, before the Korea-Colombia FTA, bilateral trade volume between the two countries has not expanded as expected.
The South Korean government allowed the import of Colombian avocados in 2021. Colombia hopes to increase the exports, with goods such as lemons and pork. However, even if new Colombian agricultural products are allowed to be imported, exports are unlikely to increase dramatically. As Korea has already signed FTAs with more than 50 countries, many agricultural markets have been opened already, so Colombian agricultural products should compete with other products even if they are allowed to access the Korean market. In order to expand exports, it may be more effective to strengthen campaigns on agricultural products such as coffee and flowers which have already been verified to Korean consumers.
Companies basically invest only when they can make profits. In order for Korean companies to invest in Colombia, they must solve problems such as lack of information, language barriers, geographical distance, legal and institutional stability and security problems in Colombia. I would like to recommend two ways to Colombian high-ranking officials on how to attract Korean companies’ investment to Colombia. The first way is the "blessing" of the U.S. government. Colombia, which has a population of 50 million, is an attractive market itself, however, a greater interest for Korean companies is the U.S. market. If the U.S. government offers special favor or incentives to Colombian products, Korean companies will pay more attention to the Colombian market. The other way is differentiation. The Colombian government and companies should persuade and explain convincingly to Korean companies why they should invest in Colombia, instead of other Latin American countries.

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