The Republic of Korea and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are obviously in for a long, long ‘honeymoon’?whereas Vietnam looms larger and larger as a close partner of Korea in the economic, social and various other fields.
It appears that President Park Geun-hye, in particular, seems to take a strong personal interest in the enhancement of relations between the two countries, especially in the promotion of cooperation in the economic field.
President Park had summit talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Busan on Dec. 10, 2014 to discuss ways to extend cooperation, and exchanged opinions on the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit, cooperation both in the region and on the international stage, issues involving the Korean Peninsula and other regional issues, such as Korea’s Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiatives.
During the Korea-Vietnam summit, President Park and Prime Minister Nguyen declared the conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The free trade negotiations between Korea and Vietnam reached conclusion after 28 months, making Vietnam Korea’s 15th FTA partner.
At the non-government level, there also are people actively engaged in the promotion of relations and cooperation between the two countries.
One example is Secretary General Kim Jin-tae of the Vietnam War Veterans Social Welfare Corporation (VWVSWC) who is an inveterate champion for the promotion of understanding, goodwill, friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Korea and Vietnam.
This became immediately apparent at an interview with Secretary General Kim of the VWVSWC recently conducted by The Korea Post at his office in southern Seoul.
“There are still many people in Vietnam suffering from the long-term ill effects of their exposure to the defoliants used during the Vietnamese War,” disclosed Secretary General Kim to The Korea Post.
Kim said his organization has been working very closely with the Vietnamese veterans organizations to help the victims of the Vietnamese War.
Another major project of the VWVSWC is to help the people born between Vietnamese women and Korean soldiers who were deployed there during the Vietnam War. He disclosed that there were some 700,000 of them in Vietnam today and that they were mostly suffering from a difficult living.
“We are helping them through close cooperation and coordination with the Veterans Association of Vietnam. “We used to allocate several hundred million won in the humanitarian projects although now the amount is not that large at this time.” “We are trying hard to return to that level of cooperation between the two countries,” predicted Secretary General Kim. Then he said, “We have also supplied them with Starex utility and ambulance vehicles.”
Secretary General Kim disclosed that his organization was now planning to build a waste water-processing plant in Vietnam. Here are details of more questions and answers exchanged between Secretary General Kim and The Korea Post:
Q: What are the areas where your organization could further contribute to the promotion of relations and friendship between the two peoples?
A: We are thinking of increasing our cooperation in the promotion of health of the Vietnamese people. A great number of people are suffering from diabetes in Vietnam and this is true also even of the young people there. Korea has some good medicine for the diabetics, which is scarce in Vietnam. I think that we will substantially increase our medical service support and assistance in Vietnam. And in that area, our efforts are greatly appreciated by the government of Vietnam.
Traditional Korean (herb) medicine and acupuncture work very well to the Vietnamese people maybe we are the same Orientals and that it still is another area where we are planning to increase our cooperation with Vietnam.
Q: How many Korean doctors and other medical personnel go to Vietnam at one time?
A: About 30 medical doctors and the same number of assistants visit Vietnam each time. We do not stay at one place, but we travel, even covering the remote regions where the transportation means are not very well developed. It takes about five hours from Hanoi and the place is named Gwangling (phonetic) Province. We provide medical service to the people there and they really appreciate our support and assistance. They had not had much knowledge about Korea before but after the Seoul Olympics Korea became much widely known there.
Q: Please introduce your organization more in detail.
A: As a social welfare organization, the Vietnam War Veterans Social Welfare Corporation (VWVSWC) was established in February 1996 with the approval of the Korean government.
Since then, the Corporation has been concentrating efforts on supporting and offering volunteer service for the benefit of socially disadvantaged people in Vietnam, such as disabled and elderly citizens. During the Yule tide season, it distributes rice to the less privileged neighbors as well as a variety of necessities for the veterans and sick persons of national merit hospitalized at the veterans’ hospitals and sanatoriums across the country.
Q: Do you receive financial assistance from the Korean government?
A: No. We don’t. Unlike other veterans or welfare organizations, the Corporation is financing social welfare programs by operating profit-making programs instead of receiving subsidies from the government. We are also operating vocational rehabilitation facilities for disabled people, providing vocational rehabilitation and training programs to help them adapt to the society in collaboration with regional schools for disabled youth and education offices.
Q: We understand that you have received citations for your charity activities.
A: In recognition of these efforts and contributions, we have received plaques of appreciation from the Korea Veterans Health Service and veterans’ hospital. In 2012, it was also honored with the award in social welfare segment of the Korea Exemplary Businessmen Awards sponsored by the National Assembly and a newspaper company.
Q: Do you work closely with your Vietnamese counterpart?
A: Yes, we do. In partnership with the Vietnam Veterans’ Association, we are providing relief items (including wheel chairs) to the wounded veterans hospitalized at the for defoliant victims in Hanoi and other regions of Vietnam, and we also give support for the third-generation Lai Daihans. Last year and this year, the two organizations are jointly conducting medical volunteer services for the needy people in Hanoi and Quang Ninh, Vietnam.
Q: We understand that your organization is also engaged in potable water development in Vietnam.
A: Yes. We have concluded earlier this year an agreement with the Vietnam Water Resources Academy to exchange information on technologies and experiences in managing drinking water and treating sewages and waste water, while pushing forward and planning various other business programs in the future.