Korea willing to enhance ties with Pakistan in tourism, trade: ex-envoy

Published February 20, 2023
Members of the Korean delegation pose for a photograph at the ancient site of Sirkap near Taxila on Sunday. — Dawn
Members of the Korean delegation pose for a photograph at the ancient site of Sirkap near Taxila on Sunday. — Dawn

TAXILA: Korea is willing to enhance relations with Pakistan in trade and tourism as the country boasts Buddhist sites that can attract religious tourists and also offers opportunities to the Korean business community.

This was stated by Dr Song Jong-hwan, who is a chair professor at Kyungnam University and a former Korean ambassador to Pakistan, while talking to journalists at the ancient site of Sirkap on Sunday.

Dr Song Jong-hwan is leading a 26-member business-tourism delegation to Pakistan comprising representatives from academia, tourism and the prominent industry sector. The delegation is on a week-long visit to explore tourism and investment potential for Korean investors.

On Sunday, it visited Taxila museum, Dharmarajika and Sirkap and took keen interest in Buddhist sites.

Dr Song said there were ample opportunities of cooperation in the cultural and religious tourism sectors, adding that Pakistan is a land of opportunities and South Korean firms can invest in the diverse industrial sector.

The former envoy said hydroelectricity companies were expanding their businesses to Pakistan. Currently, there are more than 10,000 workers from Pakistan in Korea, and this year the annual employment quota for workers from Pakistan has been increased to 2,500 per year.

Says there are ample opportunities for cooperation

He said by the end of November 2022, the number of Pakistani workers who entered Korea through the Employment Permit System has exceeded 1,600, adding that as 2023 is set to mark the 40th anniversary of South Korea-Pakistan diplomatic ties, Buddhism was a medium that can further develop the relationship between both countries.

He said that the Buddhist community of Korea is eager to establish a Gandhara Cultural Research Centre in Pakistan, with the goal of expanding it into a university, specialising in the Buddhist historic sites of Pakistan.

“I will continue to work as a goodwill ambassador for Pakistan after my departure. I will continue to make efforts to encourage greater cooperation between our two countries in trade, investment, industry and culture. I will continue to support Pakistan by presenting a positive image of this wonderful country at various forums,” he added.

Kang Chang Kook, former professor at Daejeon Institute of Science and Technology said that the two countries are actively pursuing cooperation in the areas of national defence, education and tourism. He added that Seoul would like to uplift its ties with Islamabad to a higher level through increasing cooperation at multipurpose sectors to maximise investment opportunities.

He said in 2019, over 60-member delegation of Korean Buddhist pilgrims led by Ven Wonhaeng, president of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, visited Pakistan, adding that such religious tours to Pakistan would further strengthen cultural ties between two countries.

Honorary investment counsellor Mudassar Ali Cheema highlighted that by the end of 2022, the Pakistani community in the Republic of Korea (ROK) stood at approximately 12,440 people, according to the Korea Immigration Service.

He said there were about 408 businessmen, engaged in businesses such as the export of fabrics, blankets, carpets, used machinery, export of used cars and restaurants, surgical equipment, travel agencies, mobile phone shops, heavy machinery and printing.

Mr Cheema was of the view that instead of concentrating on its geo-strategic location, Pakistan needed to push up trade, economic and investment relations through people-to-people contact. There is a need to create favourable conditions for the FDI and connect businesses through organisations and business associations.

“The two countries have the potential to further deepen and expand bilateral cooperation in various areas including trade and investment, on the basis of mutual interest and friendly investment environment,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2023

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