4 min.

SOUTH KOREA - BULGARIA REPORT: Interview with H.E. Shin Mаeng-ho

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SOUTH KOREA - BULGARIA REPORT:  Interview with H.E. Shin Mаeng-ho

In an exclusive interview, H.E. Mr. Shin Mаeng-ho, South Korean Ambassador to Bulgaria, was kind to answer Standart's questions in a wide spectrum of topics ranging from His Excellency's top priorities in Bulgaria, through relations between South Korea and Bulgaria and South and North Korea, to South Korean culture and many more. We will publish the interview in three parts over the next few days along with special reports on South Korean economy, tourism, and others.

- Your Excellency, in the beginning of your term in Bulgaria during the summer of 2013 you paid visits to many towns in the country and carried out meetings in regard to the development of economic cooperation. Are there any results of these meetings?

- There have been multiple purposes for my visits to local areas.

First of all, I wanted to understand the economic and social situation of the different local areas as extensive and detailed as possible in order to prepare myself fully as ambassador in Bulgaria. Through these trips, I could also make personal connections with Bulgarians, both in public and private sectors, and find potentials for more mutual cooperation through dialogue with them. In this respect, I think my trips have been quite successful.

Secondly, I have also discussed specific business projects with local governments or private companies. Sometimes these activities were performed because upon requests from some Korean or Bulgarian companies, and sometimes they were done out of my own initiative to promote Korean and Bulgarian economic relations. The areas of interest have been quite extensive – agriculture, machine, waste disposal, rose oil, cosmetics, tourism and so on. Many discussions between Korean and Bulgarian companies or governments are going on in this regard.

Thirdly, the promotion of cultural relations is also important. I tried to help cultural exchanges between Korean and Bulgarian local governments. Now I am much better positioned to promote cultural cooperation than before I did my visits to the local areas.

- What are your impressions from those visits?

- I have always appreciated the warm and friendly manner with which Bulgarian people welcome me. I was also impressed by the passion of people both in the government and the private sectors for economic development and business success. They are very eager to attract foreign investment, do business, and promote the image of their areas or companies.

But sometimes I found that a few people were acting in a rather passive way when it comes to doing business. They would like to just wait until any proposal comes from somewhere else, rather than being a first-mover in order create opportunities and turn them into a reality. Nevertheless, this viewpoint of mine may be quite biased as Koreans, including myself, are generally too much in-a-hurry mode or even impatient when it comes to doing business.

- How do you feel in Bulgaria, are you happy for being Ambassador here?

- Of course I am happy to be in Bulgaria as an ambassador. When the list of vacancies for Korean ambassadors was announced in my Foreign Ministry last year, Bulgaria was my first choice and I was very excited when my government accepted my wish.

Bulgaria is very well known in Korea, especially with its yogurt. But since I arrived here last July, I have been referring to Bulgaria as a land of wine, yogurt, rose oil and beautiful nature. I am enjoying all these with my wife.

Moreover, I believe Bulgarians have excellent professional skills as I witness this in the very competent and devoted Bulgarian staff at my Embassy. I am very much appreciative of that. I heard that Bulgarians are also very good at mathematics.

With this good human resource, beautiful nature, and productive land, Bulgaria is a land of vast potential. I would be happier if I can see all that potential become realized at every corner of the society during my term here.

- In your communication with Bulgarians did you find similarities and differences between the Bulgarian and Korean mentality?

A: As soon as I heard the Bulgarian national anthem for the first time, I felt that there is a lot in common between Koreans and Bulgarians. Through the Bulgarian national anthem, I could sense the difficult history, the sufferings of people and the deep passion to defend their country. Korea also has a long history of many invasions from outside and hardships to the people. In this regard, I think we, Koreans and Bulgarians, can well understand each others' minds as we share common historical experiences.

I heard that Bulgarians are somewhat pessimistic. Koreans were also very much pessimistic in the past. This common mentality may also stem from the difficult historical experiences. But in recent years, as Korea's economy grows and political system becomes more democratic, many Koreans became somewhat optimistic or self-confident. I think the Bulgarian people are entitled to be more optimistic than before, considering their strong potential.

Korea is extremely competitive society as there is a large population on its territory. Korea and Bulgaria have almost same size of land. But our population is 45 million, while Bulgarian population is about 7 million. So, Korean people should be very hard-working in order to survive. They have become richer than before (from $100 to $ 20,000 GDP per capita within 50 years), but not happier because of the excessive stress coming from the severe competition. I hope that Bulgaria will have a society, which will balance better between people's wealth and happiness.

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