Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia in Seoul hosted a reception at the Grand Ballroom of Grand Hyatt Seoul on July 21, 2015 to celebrate the 205th anniversary of Independence of Colombia.
It was one of the largest diplomatic functions in recent months with the entire ballroom space reserved for the event without any partitioning.
Among the Korean dignitaries attending the function were Minister of Government Administration & Home Affairs Chong Jong-sup, Minister Park Sung-choon of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, National Assemblyman Park Sang-Eun, Mayor Choi Moon-soon of Hwacheon County of Gangwon Province, President Kim Young-mok of KOICA and the representatives of various other government, business, culture and media organizations, including Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post (publisher of five English and Korean media units).
From the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and other segments of international community in Korea came many mission chiefs who included Ambassadors Albino Malungo of Angola, Jorge Roballo of Argentina, Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan, Edmundo Sussumu Fujita of Brazil, Hernan Brantes Glavic of Chile, Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of Cote d'Ivoire, Tomas Husak of Czech Republic, Grecia Fiodalicia Pichardo of Dominican Republic, Oscar Gustavo Herrera Gilbert of Ecuador, Hany Moawad Selim Labib of Egypt, Dibaba Abdetta (Dr.) of Ethiopia, Carlos Victor Boungou of Gabon, Rolf Mafael of Germany, Nikoloz Apkhazava of Georgia, Gustavo Adolfo Lopez Calderon of Guatemala, Aingeal O’onoghue of Ireland, Duishonkul Chotonov of Kyrgyzstan, Dato Rohana binti Ramli of Malaysia, Jose Luis Bernal of Mexico, Mohammed Chraibi of Morocco, Jorge Ramon Arnesto Alm of Nicaragua, Zahid Nasrulah Khan of Pakistan, Jaime Antonio Pomareda of Peru, Krzysztof Majka of Poland, Antonio Quintero Nobre of Portugal, Calin Fabian of Romania, Kulkumut Singhara Na Ayudhyya of Thailand, Mohamed Ali Nafti of Tunisia, Vasyl Marmazov of Ukraine, Dr. Alba Florio Legnani of Uruguay and Ms. Yadira Hidalgo de Ortiz of Venezuela (CDA).
From the Armed Forces of Korea, Colombia, the United States and the United Nations came many high-ranking officers who included General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, CIC/UNC/CFC/USFK.
The reception began with the march onto the stage of the flag-bearing honor guards of the Republic of Colombia and Korea to the accompaniment of music presented by an orchestra-like military band of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of Korea.
The honor guards’ march was followed by the presentation of the National Anthems of Colombia and Korea presented live by a lady vocalist and the music by the MND band. Then came a congratulatory speech by President Juan Manuel Santos who said in part : “Colombia lives today times of challenge and a transformation that depends on all of us; on the one hand we excel in the regional and even global landscape for our good economic performance despite the difficult international circumstances, we stand out for the strength of our democracy and we stand out for something very very important, for our social progress.” (Excerpts are toward the end of this Article.)
The Colombian President’s speech was followed by one by Ambassador Pinilla. He said: “The fact is that the links that we have gradually been expanding cover today strategic and diverse fronts, and in each of them there is a wide field of action towards the future. For instance, during the presidential visit were signed several agreements, that represent an additional panorama and a support for the Free Trade Agreement, that today, only lacks the approval of the Constitutional Court of Colombia for its entry into force.” (Excerpts are at the end of this Article.)
There were dance performances presented by Colombian Carnival Queen Ms. Cristina Felfle and members of the El Combo Sabrosa Colombian Dance Troupe, which drew much applause from the guests for their beautiful rhythmic body movements in celebration of the auspicious occasion.
Attracting the attention of the guests that day was the attendance of Mayor Choi Moon-soon of Hwacheon County of Gangwon Province who hosted the dedication of a monument in memory of the Colombian troops who fought on the side of the Republic of Korea Armed forces during the Korean War (1950-3). Colombia is the only country in the Central and South American region that sent combat troops to Korea. Colombia sent a total of 1,068 soldiers and one Navy Frigate and suffered a total of 809 casualties, including 145 KIAs (killed in action) and 567 WIAs (wounded in action).
Excerpts from the speech of President Santos of Colombia:
“Dear compatriots in the world and friends of our country, who accompany our homeland celebration, marks 205 years since our founding fathers first issued the proclamation of independence and today we remember them and honor them because their courage bequeathed to us the country that we have today, the country that we adore, the country that also hurts us and for which we do not cease to work for.
Colombia lives today times of challenge and a transformation that depends on all of us; on the one hand we excel in the regional and even global landscape for our good economic performance despite the difficult international circumstances, we stand out for the strength of our democracy and we stand out for something very very important, for our social progress.
Advances like these are being recognized in the world and that is why, for example, the European Union approved the elimination of visas for short-stay travels to countries of the Schengen area, as well as the United States that increased the duration of their visa from 5 to 10 years and so many other countries that have also eliminated this requirement for us.
I know that you are working or studying abroad, but always keep in your soul the joy of being Colombians and always, you are always attentive to what is happening in your native soil. We do not forget about you either and our embassies, consulates, are there to serve you, to support you and, like you, to put the name of Colombia in high place in the world.
When you think of your land, when you may long for its food, its music, its customs and especially the family and friends, remember that your country is growing, that your country is progressing and that it awaits you with open arms.
Happy Independence Day to all of you.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Pinilla of Colombia:
Allow me to initiate by retaking the words of the official declaration, uttered by President Park and President Santos, during their last April meeting in Bogota; “Today the relations live through a very interesting moment, a moment of opportunity, the relations between Korea and Colombia are passing through an exceptional period.”
The fact is that the links that we have gradually been expanding cover today strategic and diverse fronts, and in each of them there is a wide field of action towards the future.
For instance, during the presidential visit were signed several agreements, that represent an additional panorama and a support for the Free Trade Agreement, that today, only lacks the approval of the Constitutional Court of Colombia for its entry into force.
Yet this waiting for its entry into force has not been a passive waiting, because in the meantime, we have been materializing several projects and actions, of which I shall allow myself to make some comments:
One of the goals of our Embassy was to provide more opportunities to those Colombian students who wish to study at the best Korean universities, and take advantage of the scholarships that we are being so generously offered, yet sometimes they are not being used.
Well, today we have signed agreements with the 10 best universities of Korea, and the Ministry of Education of Colombia, so that in a joint effort in between the two governments, and starting from 2016, to bring the best 50 students from Colombia, belonging to the low-income segments, so that they can further advance in their undergraduate studies, especially in fields related to engineering.
In the agricultural sphere, Colombia is very interested in becoming a pantry of the world, because we are one of the few countries, according to FAO, which has a real potential to increase food production, with more than 10 million cultivable hectares, and in this area we are also already working with Korea on cooperation projects on cocoa and rice.
And the fact is that we share similar principles with Korea, we are democratic countries, we are countries that defend freedom, we are countries that are fighting for the well-being and we are building a path so our nations will live in an environment of peace, harmony and equity.
Accordingly, we are also exchanging experiences, and the methodologies and programs of how a North Korea citizen integrates to South Korea lifestyle, are already known in Colombia, nevertheless in the same way we have shared with you how our government is reintegrating into society more than 20,000 Colombians, originating from groups on the fringes of the law.
In the past we shared combat experiences, we fought and won a War together, and today I would venture to say that our challenge is even greater, as together we are doing and learning how to build peaceful countries.
And certainly, there is the economic front, the front of the investors, that of commerce, which is a very important axis to be able to offer to our people a better social situation: more and better employment.
I would say in football terms that we have already played the first half, and that in this first phase we got to know each other and have become more familiar with the business environment, the governments have shared numbers and the officials have analyzed them and there are many opportunities that we have identified at the governmental and institutional level. Nowis time to materializebusiness, investment and trade.
Surely we are also advancing with different projects in alternative energy, technology, housing and health, among many others, but this is not a scenario to guide a management report.
That is why I appreciate so much the presence of senior officials of the Korean government, of the ambassadors, of the representatives
of the diplomatic and military bodies, of the businessmen and of all the guests, this night here, on the celebration of 205 years of independence and 53 of diplomatic relations with Korea..
Because in the midst of the journey that we are passing through today as a nation in these negotiations of the peace process, I would like to say to you that we are optimistic about the future, so I want to welcome you to enjoy a Colombian night, full of joy, with varied cuisine, Caribbean music and Carnival Queen. But above all, sharing with the warm company of the entire Colombian community resident in Korea to whom I thank for showing each day abroad the good side of Colombia, without your work, ours as diplomats, would not have the same results.