By Ms. Linda YounEditor, Korean-language edition of The Korea Post
Ambassador Tomas Husak of the Czech Republic in Seoul said, “We expect that the President of the Czech Republic will visit Korea next year followed by the visit of the Speaker of Czech Senate.” Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post (publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language media), Ambassador Husak said, “We are witnessing very dynamic relations between our countries.” Details of the interview follow:
Question: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and your country, including the possible visit of your Head of Government to Korea?
Answer: Last year we were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea.
Our common relations took short time from the point of view of history; anyhow those 25 years were filled with intensive cooperation of both countries.
In the time being we have intensive exchanges in fields of foreign policy, economics, trade, investment, research and science, education, culture etc. etc. The highlight of our relations was the Official visit of Prime Minister of the Czech Republic H.E. Bohuslav Sobotka to the Republic of Korea in February 2015 and his summit with President Park Gyun-hye, during which the bilateral relations were upgraded to the level of strategic partnership. At the end of the year President of Republic of Korea H.E. Park Gyun-hye visited Praha. During that visit signature of Action Plan of Strategic Partnership confirmed excellent relations, which both countries enjoy in all fields of life. In the time being we are preparing official visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and we expect that President of the Czech Republic will visit Korea next year, followed by visit of Speaker of Czech Senate. We are witnessing very dynamic relation between our countries.
Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: Volume of our bilateral trade is 4 billion USD and trade balance is in favor of Korea. Both our countries are depending on exports and are strong in this field. Korea is fifth biggest exporter in the world, Czech Republic is number thirty, anyhow Czech Republic exports more than comparable countries like Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Israel, Iran or Chile. We are exporting to Korea wide range of our products; anyhow most of exports are in the field of machinery. For example biggest forging press in Korea and second biggest in Asia imported form Czech Republic is now starting operation in Doosan Heavy Industry. And there are plan to supply another Czech press, biggest in the world. On the other hand, Czech beer is very famous and Korea is our fifth biggest importer of Pilsner Urquell, which is according to our opinion best beer in the world.
Q: What are your competitive fields of industry and products attractive to Korea and what are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
A: The Czech economy, which is stable and is in a very good condition, accelerated its performance by 4.3 % in 2015. Czech industrial production has a very long tradition. The main pillars of the Czech industry are machine engineering, chemistry and foodstuff production, followed by the energy industry, civil engineering and consumer industry. Automotive industry, which employs over 150 thousand people, is a very strong export branch and one of the most important contributors to the Czech economy. The Czech Republic can offer a range of traditional openings for foreign trading partners and investors, not only in industrial sectors but also investment opportunities in cutting-edge industries. Other areas of interest could be transport machinery and equipment, precision engineering, electronics and aerospace industries. Among the new sectors we can mention, for example, nanotechnology, where the Czech Republic is one of the global leaders, as well as biotechnology, IT and software development, strategic services and research and development. Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea have many similar items and commodities, which are only different in details, execution, trademarks etc.
Korea exports to the Czech Republic for example measuring equipment, tool machinery, electrical equipment, optical devices and components for transport means. It means that our production is complimentary and with our trade exchange we support industrial strength of both of our countries. Czech companies may be interested in importing of cutting edge Hi-Tech products, medical equipment and special tools, progressive technologies and all kinds of high value added items.
Q: Who are the Korean companies (in addition to the Jaebeol business groups) actively engaged in the promotion of economic cooperation between Korea and your country?
A: Czech Embassy in Seoul is actively involved in many areas to foster business and trade and in all kinds of relationship with Korea. The Embassy of the Czech Republic has direct connections with all Czech pro-export institutions and bodies like Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic and Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic. Many of these organizations have close relationships with Korean associations and institutions, which have direct influence on our bilateral trade and investment exchange. We strive to do our best with the corresponding Korean partners to expand cooperation with Korean government bodies and institutions. These institutions are for example Korea Importers Association, Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Korean Industries, Small and Medium Business Administration and Korea International Trade Association.
Last year we organized many seminars and meetings together with Czech and Korean partners. Let me mention, for example, Business Forum for Czech and Korean entrepreneurs in Seoul, which was opened by the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. The Forum was organized by the Czech Embassy in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic and the Federation of Korean Industries. Another example of excellent cooperation is coming. For the time being we are preparing together with Chamber of Commerce of the Czech Republic and Korea Importers Association Czech-Korea Business Forum, which will be held in Seoul in November this year. We expect that the forum, which will be opened by minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic Mr. Lubomir Zaor?lek, will strengthen business ties between Czech and Korean entrepreneurs and confirm the aim of strategic partnership between our two countries.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: Korea is very important investor in our country and I am very proud to state, that all Korean investments in our country are successful. The biggest share of Korean investment is in automotive industry and related sectors. In the time being, Czech Republic, in accordance with its strategy of competitiveness is developing other sectors, including traditional ones like electronics, ICT or fine engineering. It is very advantages to start production with high added value, since Czech Republic has high qualified and skilled workers in the field of fine chemicals, life sciences, pharmacy and cosmetics, for which is big demand in Europe.
In the same time we are targeting new progressive fields, like robotics, SW Engineering, nanotechnology and cooperation in RandD, which will be primary moments of our cooperation in near future, thanks to goals given by Action Plan of Strategic Partnership between our countries.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including major achievements
A: H.E. Bohuslav Sobotka (born on23 October 1971) is the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and Leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party He studied law at the Masaryk University in Brno and earned magister degree in 1995. After the fall of communism he helped rebuild Czech Social Democratic Party and became a member. Bohuslav Sobotka also co-founded Young Social Democrats, youth wing of the party. He was first elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the 1996 legislative election. After the formation of the Social Democratic Cabinet in 2002, he was appointed Finance Minister and then in 2003 was promoted to the position of the Deputy Prime Minister, reappointed as Finance Minister in next two cabinets of social democratic Prime Ministers. In 2005, Bohuslav Sobotka was appointed as the First Deputy Prime Minister. After the 2006 legislative election he became opposition MP and in 2011, he was elected as the Leader of the Social Democrats, and thus stood as the Leader of the Opposition. Following the 2013 snap election Bohuslav Sobotka was appointed Prime Minister on 17 January 2014 by the President and twelve days later formed center-left Coalition Government.
Q: What is your view of Korea and the Korean people before and after your arrival here?
A: My first experience with Korean people is from eighties, when I was working in Bangkok. Our neighbors were Koreans and our daughter very often played with her Korean friend, Seung Hwan. I visited Korea first time in 1992, when I was negotiating agreements about Avoidance of Double Taxation and Protection of Foreign Investment. I found my Korean partners as hard working people, strong in negotiations and courteous in protocol. And then I have not visited Korea for 20 years. When I came as Ambassador, I immediately got the feeling ? this country is very well organized. I was not able to recognize Seoul, because those 20 years of Miracle on the River Han changed it tremendously. And I would like to congratulate Korean people for this achievement. Anyhow I have not recorded any change of Korean people; I still see them as hard working, strong and courteous.
Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: Czech Republic and especially Praha is very popular destination among Korean people. We are very proud that more than 250,000 Korean tourists visited Czech Republic last year, biggest number of tourist from any Asian country. Travel to our country is easy; there are 8 direct flights every week between Prague and Incheon operated by Czech Airlines and Korean Air. Koreans mostly see it as a country of fairy tales, preserved history and culture, economy style travelling. The classic main stops are Prague and ?esk? Krumlov, both listed as Cultural Heritage Places of UNESCO, followed by Karlovy Vary with its famous hot spa, chateaufort Karl?tejn, City of Plzen with Pilsner Urquell beer factory, producing best beer in the world, city of Olomouc with its baroque beauty, Southern Moravia with its history and vineyards and many other places. Korean tourists are now changing their strategy, they usually visited our country and other neighboring countries in the past, anyhow there is increasing number of tourist, who are spending their holiday only in Czech Republic.
Q: Please introduce in detail the National Day of your esteemed country.
A: Speaking about our National Day, it is necessary to go to the past. Czech Kingdom was founded in 1085 when Czech Princedom, existing from 895 was elevated to Kingdom level. And title Czech Kingdom was used for our countries until 1918, when new Republic, Czechoslovakia, was founded. Czechoslovakia was founded after division of Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which Czech Kingdom was most industrial part and consisted as well Slovakia, rural country which was until that time part of Hungarian Kingdom. Founding day was 28. October 1918 and even after division of Czechoslovakia is this date kept as National Day of the Czech Republic.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: I was born shortly after Second World War and I spent first 40 years of my life in communist regime. Our family was not getting well with this regime and I was lucky to be allowed to enroll at University. Anyhow it was in 1968, when Russia invaded our country and I took part in student protest. That is why I had to leave prestigious university at capital and to finish my studies at Technical University in northern city of Liberec.
I started to work at CKD Company, where my grandfather and father used to work at design of locomotives; anyhow due to my knowledge of languages I was transferred to its Foreign Trade department. At that time I married my schoolmate from University and two children were born, daughter and son. Few years later I got contract for position of Trade Officer at Czechoslovak Commercial Section in Bangkok. We had no Embassy in Thailand and since I was not Communist Party member, I had status of Technical Personnel without Diplomatic Position. It had tremendous advantage - there was no political pressure on me and I was allowed to carry my business by myself, which resulted in increase of export and extension of my contract. Finally, we spent 8 years in Thailand and it means that our children are grown in Asia. And they love Asia very much.
We returned from Thailand in 1989, year, when communist regime collapsed in our country. That collapse, called Velvet Revolution was quick and peaceful. After that I joined Ministry of Foreign Trade, where I become Director General. Six years later I was transferred to Foreign Ministry at the same position. Than I was appointed as Ambassador to Sweden, later on Ambassador to United Nations in Geneva and I finally become Ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Here, in Korea, I can continue in my hobbies, which is my work, cycling on excellent network of cycling roads and skiing not only around Seoul, but in places of future Olympic Games as well.
To be Czech Ambassador in the Republic of Korea is not only an honor, but as well high responsibility. Ultimate goal of the Czech Embassy in the Republic of Korea is to serve for the benefit of both Korean and Czech people.