By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Managing Editor Ms. Joy Cho
Coronavirus Diseases (COVID)-19 is playing havoc to many countries of the world, especially in China, and now even the United States of America. In Korea, the government authorities are seen to be doing well and the latest figures (as of March 23, 2020) 8,961 confirmed cases, 111 diceased, and 3,166 recovered and released from hospitals.
Among many countries of the world, the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria seems to be doing well in combating one of the most dreaded contagious diseases of the world. Here are excerpts from an interview with Ambassador Mohammed El Amine Derragui of Algeria in Seoul:
Question: The corona disease is playing havoc to Korea and many other countries of the world? How is it in your country? And how well is it handled?
Answer: Algeria is striving to stop mass contamination and the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Many decisions have been taken by the Authorities of Algeria in this regard: notably the postponement of all cultural and sports events and the closing of all schools, universities and training institutes until 5 April 2020.
The President of the Republic M. Abdelmadjid TEBBOUNE announced on 17 March 2020 a large array of measures to protect the health of Algerian people, we can mention:
The closing of all land borders and allowing the circulation of people only in exceptional cases;
The temporary suspension of all air transport, except for the air transport of goods;
The temporary suspension of all maritime liaisons, except for the maritime transport of goods;
The disinfection of transport facilities and stations;
The prohibition of all gatherings and demonstrations;
The prohibition of exporting the essential food and health products;
The temporary suspension of all group prayers and the closing of mosques;
The fight against the traders convicted of hiding essential products;
The resolute fight against the diffusers of fake news and false information about the epidemic of COVID-19;
The reinforcement of the equipment of hospitals;
The adoption of all necessary measures to contain the virus;
The densification of sensitization campaigns in the media.
These special measures announced on 17 March 2020 come to reinforce the precedent measures that include: the import of all necessary equipments to fight the disease (15,5 million masks available) and the support to the sanitary institutions, notably for quarantine and prevention.
On 19 March 2020, President TEBBOUNE took new measures to contain the COVID-19 to April 4, 2020:
suspension of state-owned and private public transportation inside and inter-provinces as well as railway traffic;
the demobilization of 50% of employees, except those working in vital services;
the demobilization of female workers having infants;
the temporary closure of cafés and restaurants in major cities.
These measures will be lifted or extended according to future data.
Q: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and your country, including the possible visit of your Head of Government to Korea?
A: Algeria and South Korea are linked by a “Strategic Partnership” since 12 March 2006 and are thus important political and economic partner for each other.
This year, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary since the establishment of Diplomatic relations between our two countries and is a milestone in the trajectory of Algerian-Korean relations.
Talking about the developments scheduled between South Korea and my country for the upcoming months, we can cite the meeting of the Joint Committee who was supposed to hold its 4th session on 1 and 2 October 2018 (co-chaired by the South Korean Minister for Trade and the Algerian Minister of Industry) and which was postponed unfortunately for schedule constraints.
The Joint Committee is a crucial tool for our relations, allowing the two Sides to review the existing cooperation, plan new projects and guidelines and draw the future perspectives for the reinforcement of the bilateral partnerships.
We hope that the Joint Committee will meet this year.
Q: Who are the most widely known Korean business leaders in your country. Which Korean companies are most popular in your country?
A: Worldwide Korean brands such as SAMSUNG, KIA, HYUNDAI, LG and HANWHA are well known by the Algerian people.
Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: According to the Algerian Customs, the volume of bilateral trade between Algerian and South Korea reached 2,21 billion USD in 2019 (Algeria imported 842,3 million USD from South Korea and exported for 1,37 billion USD to South Korea mostly oil and gas). South Korea was in 2019, the 11th trade partner and 3rd Asian partner of Algeria, representing 2,85% of the total trade of Algeria in 2019.
Q: What are your competitive fields of industry and products attractive to Korea and what are Korean products and services that your country might wish to import? 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: As you know, Algerian economy is dominated by the oil and gas sector and the Government is striving to diversify the industrial sector. Many sectors, such as tourism, agriculture and a real auto and mechanical industry offer good opportunities for South Korean companies willing to enter more efficiently the Algerian market.
The Algerian Government is adopting new rules and procedures to offer incentives to foreign investments, by reviewing the legal framework and uprooting all the obstacles in order to facilitate the FDI inflows to Algeria. The new Algerian Government is fully committed to create a transparent and equitable business environment, favorable to investments and entrepreneurship.
So far, the South Korean companies are far from their potential in term of investments in Algeria. We are expecting that in the coming years, the South Korean investments in Algeria would be more substantial, especially regarding the transfer of technology, of expertise and know-how.
Q: What are the Korean companies actively engaged in the promotion of economic cooperation between Korea and Algeria? Do you have any representative Korean companies meriting a special mention for their exemplary cooperation for the two countries?
A: Nearly 30 South Korean companies have permanent representation in Algeria and many companies, who do not have permanent offices, are doing business in Algeria in different sectors.
It is worth mentioning that many South Korean companies won public contracts in Algeria and are building many highly important infrastructures, for example:
DAEWOO E&C: power plant in Cap Djinet, fertilizers factory in Oran, new town of Boughzoul, extension of Djen Djen port, development of the area of Oued El Harrach;
HYUNDAI ENG: combined power plants in Ain Arnet, Biskra and Jijel, refinery in Arzew;
HANWHA E&C: power plant in Biskra;
SAMSUNG C&T: combined power plants in Mostaganem and Naama;
SAMSUNG ENG: refinery in Skikda;
HYOSUNG EBARA: sewage treatment plant in Ain Sefra.
Q: When is your National Day this year? Do you have any celebration plans? Please introduce the National Day.
A: This year Algeria will celebrate the 66th anniversary of the outbreak of the National Liberation Struggle. The 1st of November 1954, the Algerian people launched the rise up against the French colonization to restore the sovereignty of his beloved country.
The Algerian revolution, one of the greatest liberation movements in the 20th century, ended up seven and half years later by getting the national independence in July 05th, 1962 after the sacrifice of one and half million of martyrs.
The Algerians will always be faithful and pay respect to the spirits of those who sacrified their lives to assure that the future generations will live in an independent and democratic Algeria.
Q: Please introduce in detail the Head of Government of your esteemed country, including major achievements.
A: Mr. Abdelmadjid TEBBOUNE was elected President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria on 19 December 2019. Born on 17 November 1945 in Mecheria (Naama Province), he graduated in 1969 from the National School of Administration in Algiers.
He has occupied many positions in the Algerian local administration and became Wali (Governor) for the first time in Adrar in 1983. Minister delegate for Local Collectivities from 1991 to 1992, he is appointed Minister of Communication and Culture (1999-2000), then Minister of Housing (2001-2017).
Mr. Abdelmadjid TEBBOUNE is married and has four children.
Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: There are hundreds of attractive sites for tourists in Algeria since my country is very large and rich in term of culture, food, climate, geography, art, food, architecture…etc
The Algerian desert is a paradise on Earth where you can find the most beautiful sun rise and magnificent oasis (Djanet, Timmimoun, Saoura, Ghardaïa...). I highly recommend it for any tourist visiting Algeria during winter time.
Also, tourists must experience the splendid and the beauty of the Algerian beaches situated on the southern cost of the Mediterranean Sea along 1600 km.
Algeria is rich also of roman vestiges sites as well as the Islamic and ottoman architecture all around the country in the cities of Batna, Tlemcen, Annaba, Algiers…
I invite Korean tourists also to enjoy the experience of the Algerian unique wines and gastronomy.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: I’m Mr. Mohamed El Amine DERRAGUI, the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria in Seoul since April 2015. I’m married and I have two children: a boy and a girl.
I started my diplomatic carrier 42 years ago as a Third Secretary in the East Europe Division after having graduated from the National School of Administration.
I have served as the Ambassador of Algeria in Iran, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda and as Chargé d’Affaires in the Embassy of Algeria in Belgrade (former Yugoslavia).