Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Republic of Korea Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Lee In-tae, has said his present tour of duty in the country, is his first visit to Nigeria.
However, Ambassador In-tae said, his coming to Nigeria is his second coming to the African region.
The South Korean envoy who spoke with Daily Sun when he received in audience, the former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu in Abuja, promised to improve on the economic relations between Nigeria and the Republic of Korea.
Recall that the Republic of Korea and the Federal Republic of Nigeria established diplomatic ties in February, 1980. Since then, Nigeria has been one of the most important friends of Korea on the African continent.
“Trade between both countries deepened in 2011 when the volume of trade exceeded $3 million, making Nigeria the second largest trading partner of Korea in Africa. Many of Korea’s top enterprises operate in Nigeria, including various sectors such as trade, power and energy.
“Exchanges of high level government officials have been active as well. Since the first visit of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo to the Republic of Korea in 2000, the then Republic of Korea President, Roh Moo-hyun visited Abuja in 2006, followed by the second visit by Obasanjo later that year,” the Korean embassy said.
Similarly, in 2010, former Korean Prime Minister, Dr Chung Woon-chan, visited Abuja as the special envoy to congratulate Nigeria on its 50th anniversary of its independence and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.
Most recently, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, visited the Republic of Korea to attend the 2nd Nuclear Security Summit.
Apart from the Korean Embassy in Abuja, the Republic of Korea has two other important institutions in Abuja namely: the Korean Cultural Centre, Nigeria, and the Office of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). While the former is actively promoting cultural exchanges between both countries, the latter is serving as a focal point in coordinating Korea’s grant and implementation in Nigeria under the auspices of the Embassy.
Also, in Lagos, the Republic of Korea maintains a consulate and the Office of Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
Below are excerpts from Ambassador In-tae’s interview.
How long have you been here?
Only 40 days.
How has it been so far?
Are you enjoying Nigeria?
I love Nigeria so much.
Is this your first time in Nigeria?
Yes, first time in Nigeria, but second time in Africa. When I was young, I worked in Western Sahara. They have a peacekeeping office and I was there for one year. So, talking about Africa, it is my second time. But to Abuja, this is my first time.
Have you gone round Nigeria?
I am presently meeting with the ministry and their permanent secretary, some of the key personnel, to collaborate in the relationship between both countries.
So, you haven’t travelled to Lagos?
No. But next month, I plan to travel to Lagos.
What about the South east?
No. I know their former governor, the former governor of Abia state. I know he is one of their famous persons, and I thank him for coming to my embassy.
How many countries have you toured so far?
I have visited many countries, maybe 40 countries because I had opportunity to go to South America, North America, Iraq, Western Sahara, European area and many other areas to collaborate within the intelligence community.
The minister of Budget and National Planning had during your meeting with him said Nigeria should not only receive grants and aids from South Korea, but that both countries should foster business relationship. What do you plan to do in that regard?
My government and Nigeria have great cooperation between them. This time, I plan to put my utmost efforts to strengthen the commercial investment between both countries.
What is the current volume of trade between Nigeria and South Korea?
I think there are many parts, many areas.
What is the total amount of the export from Nigeria and import from South Korea? Are they buying a lot of crude oil here?
From Nigeria to Seoul?
You do so many things there, including oil and agriculture. As for Korean products, I have to find out. But in terms of the overall amount, it is $600 million.
How many Koreans are in Nigeria?
There are maybe 500 to 600 Korean nationals. They are in Lagos and a few of the Koreans are in Abuja.