Sunday, February 14, 2016

Latvia opens new chapter with Korea

Latvian Ambassador to Korea Peteris Vaivars
By Rachel Lee

The establishment of a diplomatic mission in Seoul has opened a new chapter in bilateral relations with Korea, says the first resident Latvian ambassador to Korea.

"We share similar values and attitudes about working hard and reaching out and so it is quite natural for Latvia to be taking steps to actively promote closer relations with strong, like-minded partners such as Korea," Peteris Vaivars said.

Vaivars, 53, who arrived here in January, served as a non-resident Latvian ambassador to Korea from 2007 to 2013. Along with the Seoul posting, he works as non-resident ambassador to Malaysia and Singapore. The embassy opened last September.

"Korea is a very dynamic country, a genuine Asian tiger when we talk about economic growth. Latvia together with its two neighbours ― Estonia and Lithuania ― are referred to as the Baltic tiger," he said.

Since diplomatic relations were established in 1991, the ambassador believes the two nations have achieved a good level of political cooperation and exchange, particularly in culture and education.

"The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement has been signed, the agreements between Latvia and Korea on double taxation and protection of investments are in force, and visa-free travel is in effect," he said. "So, my top priority will be to enhance our economic relations by promoting trade, business contacts, mutual understanding and cooperation."

Vaivars said research and development is one of the promising sectors in Latvia due to its good location, and he is planning to introduce investment opportunities to Korean companies in the coming years.

"Latvia is ideally located to serve as a hub of creating and testing new products produced by Korean companies at a short distance from the main sales markets in the EU and its eastern neighbourhood," he said.

The ambassador also plans promote other fields including tourism in both directions and logistics that provide solutions to serve shipments of Korean-made goods to be delivered to Europe.

"We have plans to organize outdoor events for bicycle lovers in order to introduce Latvian made bicycles and receive a famous Latvian choir in summer and organize some other cultural and public diplomacy events," the ambassador said.

He would also like to organize an exchange of visits by both presidents.

"Till now, information about Latvia in Korea has been sparse and our new embassy will help close this gap. We are not well-known for Koreans yet, but I will do my best to increase awareness of Latvia in Korea."

Latvia is a country with 2 million people in North Eastern Europe on the Baltic Sea. The territory is about 64,000 square kilometres, which is approximately two thirds of the Korean territory. Latvia is a member state of the European Union and NATO, and has its own language.

The capital Riga was founded in 1201, but Latvia was proclaimed as an independent state on Nov. 18, 1918. 

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