By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik, Vice Chairman Song Na-ra, Reporters Kevin Lee, Kim Ji-yun
“Korea and Estonia need to enhance cooperation in digital government and electronic service sectors,” Marti MÄTAS, Chargé d’Affaires a.i of the Estonian Embassy in Soul said.
In an interview with The Korea Post media, Marti MÄTAS said, “ I believe that there are a lot of cooperation opportunities related to digital government and electronic services provided to our citizens.”
He said, “Estonia is also offering to the citizens of ROK its unique e-residency program, which allows establishing a company in Estonia without leaving Korea and thereby obtaining access to the entire European Union market with 450 million potential customers.”
Marti MÄTAS also said, “I am delighted that more than 1700 Koreans have already applied for Estonian e-residency and hope to see more and more companies established by them in Europe.”
Excerpts from the interview with Chairman Kim follow:
Question: You have your National Day coming in February in the New Year. Please introduce your National Day in full detail.
Answer: Estonian national day or the Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia is celebrated on Feb. 24 and marks the anniversary of the Estonian declaration of independence in 1918. On this day, the Manifest of All Peoples was published in Tallinn, declaring an independent and democratic Republic of Estonia.
In Estonia, the celebration of the national day was interrupted for 50 years due to the Soviet occupation of Estonia between the years 1940 and 1990 but it was still widely celebrated abroad. Our government institutions continued to work in exile until the restoration of independence in Estonia and a large number of countries never recognised the incorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union.
The celebrations of the national day usually start with the festive ceremony of rising the Estonian national flag and continues with a military parade, concerts and parties. This year the festivities are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and no indoor public events will be held.
Q: Please introduce your Head of State in detail, including his major achievements. Also introduce the First Lady and other members of the First Family. (President Moon Jae-in and our First Family would be very much interested in learning the information.)
A: Estonian Head of State is the President of the Republic of Estonia. Estonia’s current President is Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid who was elected the President of Estonia on Oct. 3, 2016. In Estonia, the President is elected for a term of five years.
President Kaljulaid is a supporter of a non-restrictive legal space for the ongoing digitalization of economies and governments. She is an active promoter of sustainability and halting climate change. She advocates for publicly speaking up against violence and for giving a voice to those affected by it.
Before becoming the President of Estonia, Ms. Kaljulaid served from 2004 to 2016 as a Member of the European Court of Auditors. Kersti Kaljulaid was the CFO and CEO of the Iru Power Plant of state-owned energy company Eesti Energia and prior to that Prime Minister Mart Laar's Economic Advisor.
Kersti Kaljulaid has graduated from the University of Tartu in the field of genetics in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and she has a master`s in Economics and Business Administration. She is fluent in English and French and speaks German, Finnish and Russian. President Kaljulaid is married and has four children.
President Kaljulaid has visited the Republic of Korea twice, both visits took place in 2018 and included a summit with President Moon Jae-in. President Kaljulaid is the Honorary Citizen of Seoul and a great friend of Korea.
Q: Nowadays, economic cooperation is very important between the countries. Who are the major Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation? Please introduce them in detail in the order of size and scale of business activities.
A: Our countries have excellent political and economic relations. Estonia and ROK are like-minded countries and cooperate actively in international organisations. We share the same values and principles of democracy, political and economic freedom. It is true that economic cooperation is becoming growingly important in bilateral relations and enhancing it is one of the objectives for our Embassy. I hope that our presence in ROK will widen the circles of Korean companies interested in importing Estonian products and invest in our country. There is a wide range of high-quality Korean products popular in Estonia, starting from cars and smartphones and ending with kimchi, the production of which is recently booming all over the world, including our country.
The quantity of Estonian products on the Korean market is not yet big, although Estonia is exporting to Korea relatively big quantities of articles of wood, mechanical appliances and electric equipment. In 2019, Estonian exports to Korea reached 51 million Euros whilst Korean exports to Estonia amounted to 66 million Euros. During the last 10 years, these figures have grown significantly but there is definitely room for further development. I hope that the establishment of our Embassy and strengthening our economic cooperation will open doors to the Korean market for many other Estonian high quality and ecologically clean products such as dairy and grains, design articles, cosmetics, etc.
ROK and Estonia are both digitally advanced countries, Estonia is even called the world’s most advanced digital society, as 99% of our government services are provided online. Both of our countries belong to the alliance of the world’s leading digital governments called the Digital Nations. I believe that there are a lot of cooperation opportunities related to digital government and electronic services provided to our citizens. Estonia is also offering to the citizens of ROK its unique e-residency programme, which allows establishing a company in Estonia without leaving Korea and thereby obtaining access to the entire European Union market with 450 million potential customers. I am delighted that more than 1700 Koreans have already applied for Estonian e-residency and hope to see more and more companies established by them in Europe.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months? It may not be very large at this time. However, we trust that introduction of them by the Korean media such as The Korea Post could substantially increase the presence of Korean industry in your country.
A:I am very hopeful that the establishment of the Embassy of Estonia will open new avenues for our economic cooperation. Our aim is to make Estonia better known among Koreans, facilitate business contacts, tourism and cultural exchange. Many Koreans have visited Estonia and admired the beauty of our nature and the unique Old Town of our capital Tallinn.
Nevertheless, Estonia is not yet widely known in Korea and I am sure that this interview to the Korea Post helps to introduce our country to the Korean readers. It is difficult to predict what will happen during the next 12 months, as we are operating under a strict regime of travel restrictions but I am hopeful that the situation will improve during the following year and we can return to business as usual with exchanging government and business delegations, students and tourists.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you might want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
Estonia’s hassle free business environment, qualified human capital and digital capability makes our country and excellent destination for investment. Our country offers a very competitive environment for researching solutions and services, for their development and global delivery. The small size of our country makes Estonia an excellent test bed for innovative solutions that can later be sold at the global market.
From multinational companies to high growth start-ups, Estonia has a two-decade record of accomplishment of successful investments and innovations. We are a Northern European hub for industrial, global business services and supply chain sectors and a world leader in IT – all these areas and many others offer plenty of investment opportunities for Korean investors. Estonia is also a perfect investment destination into more traditional sectors, such as real estate, tourism and spa facilities, as well as industrial production.
Regarding Estonian investment in ROK, I am hopeful that some of our ICT-sector companies developing state-of-the-art digital solutions and services will establish joint ventures with Korean companies bringing some of our expertise to the local market.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen, need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions and who are your hospitality industrial establishments?
Being among the least densely populated countries in Europe, Estonia makes for a great nature and city break destination for those looking to stretch out their limbs and enjoy some peace and solitude. Estonia is well known for its clean nature, beautiful bogs and forests, as well as delicious Estonian-Nordic cuisine.
Estonia is the only Baltic country with far-stretching and deep-rooted island culture. Although mostly uninhabited, Estonian islands tend to be rural, with some holding traces of local Viking and medieval culture.
Estonia's UNESCO world heritage capital city Tallinn was granted city rights in the 13th century by the King of Denmark. Since then, the streets of Tallinn have seen many world's powers, from the Danes and Swedes to Germans, and tsarist and Soviet Russia. Tallinn Old Town is filled with medieval houses and alleyways and is still protected by the remnants of the city wall. The wealth of architecture in Tallinn means that there are many legends and stories to explore.
Estonians love their forests, bogs and all the animals that live there such as lynxes, brown bears, wolves, foxes, rabbits and deer. It is right to say that Estonians come with a tree-hugging trait and trips to the wilderness are increasingly popular among our visitors.
Estonian Song and Dance Celebration taking place once in five years is the local signature event and a reason why Estonians are often referred to as the "singing nation". The uniqueness of this mesmerising event has even earned the song and dance celebration a place at UNESCO's prestigious list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate.
A: One of the most important holidays in Estonia is the Midsummer Day on June 24. Great festivities are held to celebrate Northern white nights when it never gets completely dark. There are big community parties in cities and villages; people get together with friends, build fires, grill and eat lots of meat and dance until morning.
As far as the ancient folk calendar is concerned, the summer solstice and the winter solstice used to be more important than Midsummer Day and Christmas. Even though Estonia is not a religious country, many people still follow the Christian tradition, so Christmas are still considered one of the most important holidays traditionally celebrated among the closest family members.
Estonians love to celebrate their holidays with plenty of good delicious and drink and, if possible, spend some time in burning hot sauna with family or friends as part of the evening.
Q: Do you have Honorary Consul(s) in Korea? If yes, how are they contributing to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between the two countries?
A: Currently, Estonia does not have an Honorary Consul in Korea, as the term of our previous Honorary Consul in Seoul terminated due to the establishment of our permanent mission in Seoul.
Q: Your Excellency as the Head of Mission of your esteemed country perform the important role of a bridge between the two countries. And the government, business and various other circles in Korea wish to learn more about Your Excellency. Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all Koreans and my Korean colleagues in various government institutions for their warm and friendly welcome. I am delighted to live and work in Seoul, which already feels like home. I visited Korea for a holiday trip a couple of years ago and fell in love with this country and its people, not to mention the excellent Korean cuisine. Therefore, I was very happy to learn that my duties will take me for several years to Korea.
I am very fond of Asian societies, culture and history, although I got my first MA degree in English language, literature and international affairs from the University of Tartu. Not so long ago I decided to complete my second MA programme in Asian Studies in Tallinn University. I have worked in the field of coordinating international affairs since 2007, firstly in the private sector and then since 2015 for the Government of Estonia. Before joining the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019 I worked several years for the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. I was appointed as the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Republic of Estonia in the Republic of Korea in August 2020 and my current duties include opening the Embassy of Estonia in Seoul and strengthening the political and economic relations between our countries.
When I have time for hobbies, then I like reading novels and books about history, go to theatre and concerts, hiking and out with my friends. As most of the Estonians, I have also been always singing in a choir and attended several of Estonia’s famous Song Celebrations.