President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone on April 13, 2022 with Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan Lotay Tshering, at the request of the Bhutanese Prime Minister, for 15 minutes. Prime Minister Tshering was the 25th leader with whom President Moon has spoken over the phone to discuss the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Recalling his visit to Bhutan in July 2016, President Moon said, “I’ve personally visited Bhutan and have many pleasant memories from that trip. I was deeply impressed by the people-oriented approach of the Bhutanese Government, which puts the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index ahead of Gross National Product. I refer to that policy in the administration of Korean state affairs.”
Prime Minister Tshering responded by thanking President Moon for accepting his proposal for this telephone call. He went on to say that he is well aware of the President’s trip to Bhutan back in 2016 and expressed the hope that President Moon could visit his country again when circumstances allow.
In July 2016, President Moon, who was a member of an opposition party in Korea, was on a volunteer humanitarian mission to a region in Nepal that had been devastated by an earthquake the year before. After leaving Nepal, he entered Bhutan, where he met with then-Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Gross National Happiness Commission Secretary Ura and discussed the GNH Index with them.
President Moon noted, “The entire world is experiencing difficulties because of COVID-19, but fortunately Bhutan has had no additional confirmed cases since April 2. I believe this is due to Your Excellency’s superb leadership.”
In response, Prime Minister Tshering said he is well aware that Korea has been successfully dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak by rapidly testing, tracing and treating confirmed cases. He went on to request emergency assistance, saying that the most urgent needs for Bhutan are COVID-19 diagnostic kits.
President Moon said, “Korea is providing humanitarian assistance such as testing kits and other supplies to nations that have lesser developed public healthcare systems. We aim to help as many countries as possible.” He continued, “We will also positively examine Bhutan’s request.”
President Moon added, “Close international cooperation and solidarity are important for us to overcome COVID-19.” He stressed, “The international community must work more actively together to assist countries with vulnerable public healthcare systems.
President Moon said, “I am grateful to Bhutan for its support in the global arena behind the Korean Government’s policy toward the Korean Peninsula and advances into international organizations. I’d like to ask for your continued interest and support going forward.” In reply, Prime Minister Tshering conveyed his intention to provide ongoing support.
Prime Minister Tshering expressed his gratitude for Korea’s attentive consideration even when the country must be flooded with requests for testing kits. He went on to say that he is pleased at seeing Korea’s global leadership regarding the COVID-19 response and expressed his intention to visit Korea when the time is right.
The two leaders concluded their phone call by pledging to overcome the COVID-19 crisis successfully, recalling that Korea and Bhutan have maintained friendly relations for the past 33 years, since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.