Outgoing South Korean Ambassador Hong Jin-wook speaks a press conference at his house in Maadi district, southern Cairo- Egypt Today/Samar Samir
CAIRO – 17 May 2023: In his farewell speech, outgoing South Korean Ambassador Hong Jin-wook praised his country’s cooperation with Egypt that witnessed a momentum over the past 3 years.
“I feel like I just arrived to Cairo and said hello to you yesterday, but around 3 years have passed so quickly. That's why I can't believe that I'm saying goodbye to you now,” he said.
“I have been very pleased during these past 3 years. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic problems couldn't stand in the way of the friendship between Egypt and Korea. The relations between our two countries have become even better,” he added.
The ambassador also stated that trade between Egypt and South Korea increased by about 40 percent in 2022 despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, adding that Egyptian exports to Korea increased by around 161 percent in the same year. In comments to Egypt Today, the ambassador clarified that the increase in Egyptian exports is driven by Egyptian natural gas exports to Korea, which have increased by more than seven times.
Talking in detail on the bilateral cooperation, Hong Jin-wook said that the countries have been producing "Made in Egypt" products like T.Vs and washing machines, and that both sides agreed in 2022 to produce tablets, mobile phones, and metros. “They also agreed to work together on building El-Dabaa nuclear power plant,” he said.
Cairo-Seoul direct flights
The ambassador revealed that direct flights between Korea and Egypt will resume soon as more Korean tourists plan to visit Egypt. He added in comments to Egypt today that the embassy is in discussions with EgyptAir and Korean carrier to launch these flights soon.
“In the past months, after leveling down the Korean travel advisory on Egypt, more Koreans started coming to Egypt for tourism. I also think that direct flights between Korea and Egypt will resume soon. Many Koreans are now planning to travel to Egypt to see not only the beautiful nature in Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Dahab, but also to visit the historical sites like the Pyramids, Luxor, and Aswan,” he said.
As for cultural exchange between both countries, Jin-wook noted that many Koreans are learning Arabic and the number of Muslims and mosques in Korea is on the rise.
Regarding the soaring number of Egyptians interested in the Korean culture, the ambassador confirmed that the number of Egyptians learning the Korean language; watching Korean series, and movies; and having Korean food increased significantly. He pointed out that the Korean language is now being taught at Sohag University, Kafr El-Sheikh University, Ain Shams University and Aswan University.
“Also, the number of students at the Sejong Institute has increased more than tenfold. The number of Egyptian fans of K-pop groups has exceeded one million. I also found out that there is a Facebook page named after me for the people who support me. That's why I always say that I am the happiest Korean ambassador in the world,” he said.
“As I always say, even if governments change, the people remain the same. That's why I believe that the people are the most important thing. We must understand and respect each other's cultures, even if they are different. That is why I have focused more on public diplomacy during the past period,” the ambassador continued.
“Egypt is a beautiful country with a rich history, and its future will be bright. Egypt is a bright country, but I am sure its future will be even brighter because it has intelligent young people like you. I believe that Egypt will be one of the countries in the G20 before 2050,” he said
More Korean investments
In comments to Egypt Today, he said that the role of the Egyptian government is very important in helping the current Korean companies solve their problems and difficulties, clarifying that “they are suffering to get their supplies to manufacture their products here in Egypt. And I am very happy that your government is cooperative in solving the problems that Korean companies encounter. It is not only the Korean companies, other companies are also hoping that Egypt can soon overcome the economic crisis.”
Regardless of the economic crisis in Egypt, some Korean companies like Samsung and LG decided to expand their investments in the country, according to the ambassador, adding “we have a brighter prospect for future investment."
The ambassador ended the farewell ceremony with playing saxophone, where he played the Egyptian national anthem.