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Outlook of Laos is bright with 7.9% economic growth every yearInterview with Ambassador Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Laos in Seoul

The following are excerpts from an interview with Ambassador Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in Seoul recently conducted by The Korea Post media on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the National Day of Laos and the 21st anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Laos.—Ed.

Introduction of Laos: At the outset, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to The Korea Post for giving me the opportunity to express some words on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the National Day of Laos and the 21st anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the Lao PDR and the Republic of Korea.

President Bounnhang Vorachith of Laos (right foreground) and President Park Geun Hye of Korea shake hands with each other in Vientiane, Laos on Nov. 9, 2016.

The Lao PDR is a least developed and landlocked country and advancing the national development through implementation of every Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plan which started from early 1980s.
The implementation of the 7th Five Year National Socio-Economic Development Plans was successful.
In the past four decades, the Lao PDR has been maintaining political stability, security and peace. The economy has been growing steadily, maintaining GDP growth of at least 7.9 percent annually. This has facilitated the socio-economic development, especially business operations, production, services and investment. The Lao PDR has progressed the preparation for graduation from Least Developed Countries status which target in 2020. In 2011, the World Bank improved the status of the Lao PDR from the Low Income Countries to the Lower-Middle Income Countries.
The General Election of National Assembly of Laos was took place early this year which subsequently approved the new Government of the Lao PDR. The Government has further pursued the national development policy and mainstreamed the SDGs of Unite Nations into the 8th Five-Year National Socio-Economic Development Plans (2016-2020), the Development Strategy 2025 and Vision 2030. The Lao PDR regards the SDGs implementation as our international obligation which will not only contribute to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but will also bring development benefits to the Lao PDR. The Government will focus on the achievement of the goals of its 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, Development Strategy 2025 and Vision 2030 which include green growth and sustainable development, maintaining steady economic growth, achieving constant reduction of poverty and graduating from LDC status.
Development of bilateral relations between Korea and Laos: As mentioned earlier, this year is also mark the 21st Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Lao PDR and the Republic of Korea. I am delighted to observe that, in the recent years the friendly relations and the cooperation between our two countries have been deepen and steadily developed, both, political and socio-economic cooperation. The exchange visit between high ranking officials have taken place continuously such as the exchange visit between two Prime Ministers, two Speaker/President of National Assembly and especially the historical state visit to the Republic of Korea led by H.E. Mr. Choummaly Sayasone, President of the Lao PDR in 2013 and the historical state visit to the Lao PDR led by H.E. Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea in September 2016. It was the second visit to the Lao PDR by Korean President. The first visit was led by a former President Roh Moo-hyun who attended the ASEAN-ROK Summit and other related summit in Vientiane, in November 2004, but it was not official state visit.

In the bilateral summit between H.E. Mr. Bounnhang VORACHITH, new president of the Lao PDR and President Park Geun Hye in September 2016 in Vientiane, the two leaders discussed various important issues and expanded various cooperation between our two counties. There were totally 8 MOUs were signed in order to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of KOICA Projects, Investment, Industry and Trade, Culture-Art and Tourism, Energy and Mineral, Eco-Friendly Energy Town, Labors, Social Welfare, Health Care & Medical Science.
Bilateral trade between Korea and Laos: The trade volume between the two countries in 2015 have grown to 199 million US$. In the field of investment, Korean Investment is now ranks 5th among the largest FDI countries, with total capital of about 800 million US$. In the field of tourism, last September 2016, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Laos and Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Korea have signed the MOU in order to enhance cooperation on Culture and Tourism. The statistic showed that total tourist visited Laos in 2015 reached about 4.7 million people including 165.300 Korean tourists. The number of Korean tourist in Laos is rank 4th after Thailand 2.3 million, Vietnam 1.2 million and China 511.400 people.
The Lao PDR has a lot of potential in economic development, particularly hydro-electricity, mining, agriculture production, eco-tourism and some other fields. We very welcome Korean investors to visit and to invest in the Lao PDR and we will provide convenient environment for your investment and business.
In the past year, the Lao PDR has received support and assistance from the Republic of Korea through KOICA and some other channels. The Republic of Korea now ranks number 3 in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Lao PDR with an average annual increase of USD40 million covering rural development programs, education development, health and medication projects, capacity building for Government officials, UXO clearance and others projects.
The valuable assistance from the Republic of Korea has contributed significantly to the improvement of livelihood of the Lao people as well as necessary infrastructure for socio-economic development in the Lao PDR. The Lao PDR recognized Korea’s Saemaul Undong as an effective rural development program. Therefore, the Lao PDR could use the experience of Saemaul Undong in the implementation of rural development programs in the Lao PDR. I can say that Saemaul is the best model for the rural development plans in Laos. In this regard, on behalf of the people and Government of Laos and on my own behalf, I express my sincere gratitude to the people and the Government of the Republic of Korea for providing such valuable assistance which contribute a lot to the National Socio-Economic Development in the Lao PDR.
About Ambassador Khamsouay Keodalavong of Laos in Seoul: I am very happy to be accredited as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Lao PDR to the Republic of Korea, a land of the miracle. Korea is a wonderful country that has very strong economy as well as riches of various cultures and beautiful nature which filled with remarkable natural scenery, ancient temples, thriving cities, beautiful beaches and most important is friendly and hard working people with ancient history. During my mission here, I will do my best to enhance and strengthen relationship between our two countries more deepen and closer for the mutual interest of our people.
May I, once again, express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the people and Government of the Republic of Korea for their kind friendship and valuable assistance to the Lao PDR in many past years?
The New Year 2017 is just around the corner, I also would like to take this opportunity to wish both the People of Laos and Korea, our two Governments and leaders, a very good health, happiness and achieve a greater success in the coming New Year 2017.

Lee Kyung-sik  edt@koeapost.com

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