By Editor-in-Chief Jimmy Kim
Brazil is a country where I started my first foreign service as a Korean diplomat. In the early 1980s, I arrived in Brasilia-DF, the capital on the other side of the globe from Seoul and lived there for about 5 years.
During my life in Brazil I had my second child (a son) and studied Portuguese literature at UniCEUB. It’s also where I first started playing golf. Accordingly, it gives me a feeling of Brazil like my second home. Brazil has given me new family, many foreign friends, more knowledge, exotic experiences and wonderful memories.
My second son was born at the Hospital Militar de Área de Brasília. When I heard the news of the birth and ran to the newborn ward of the hospital, I could recognize my son at a glance because he was a foreigner who looked different from other new born babies. There was no need to worry that the child might have changed by any chance. I can't easily forget the bright and friendly faces of the doctors, nurses and the people around them.
When I was studying at UniCEUB, the different classroom atmosphere from Korea was quite interesting. It was easy to see students sitting at their desks asking questions to the professor or approaching the professor like friends and borrowing a light of cigarette. Such a attitude seemed unfamiliar to me. So I introduced a Korean proverb to them, 'You don't even step on a teacher's shadow.' However they couldn't understand easily, and they were only blinking their eyes.
At that time, relations between Korea and Brazil were not pretty good. We even had to wait for three weeks to win a diplomat VISA. But I remember that in the following year, after the appointment of the new Ambassador Gong Ro-myong, it was improved innovatively through the Embassy's active negotiations. ‘The Cross New Village Farm’ that was an uncomfortable issue was soon amicable resolved also. In 1986, the old and leaking embassy building was also demolished and added to the new building. Since then, relations between the two countries have continued to develop.
Brazil is the first country where Koreans immigrated to South America. On Dec. 18, 1962, the first group of Korean immigrants to Brazil departed from Pusan Port and arrived at Santos Port on Feb. 12 of the following year.
In 2022, it will mark the 60th anniversary of Koreans' immigration to Brazil. The number of Korean immigrants has increased from 103 at the early immigrant to about 50,000 now, and they are conducting successful economic activities mainly in the clothing industry.
Brazil, known as a ‘Country of Passion’, has a wide territory and immigrants from many countries such as Korea, Japan, and Italy. They are living with diverse life styles and cultures.
As a member of the G20, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country in terms of land area, with a vast territory of 8.51 million ㎢ (37 times the Korean Peninsula, 85 times the Republic of Korea) and the world's 12th largest country (as of 2020) with a GDP of about 210 million people. Brazil is the richest country in the continent and also a country of possibility. As a bridgehead in the Latin American market, it is a future partner that should continue its green partnership with Korea.
In particular, Brazil is a world class agricultural and livestock country (the world's largest exporter of sugar, chicken, soybeans, coffee, etc.), and possesses abundant natural resources and vast arable land (22% of the world's arable land).
However, they co-exist peacefully without discrimination. Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America with so many opportunities. The time difference with Korea is 12 hours and so 12 o'clock in the daytime in Korea is 12 o'clock night in Brazil.
When we rest, they work; when we work, they rest. If we work hand in hand at the two poles of the earth, I would say that we can make the global village more peaceful and vibrant in the 21st century.
Brasilia-DF, the capital city built in the shape of an airplane under the banner of 'Brazil's great leap in the 21st century', has the meaning of wishing for national prosperity in Brazil. I wish Brazil a powerful leap forward.
The first official meeting between President Kim Young-sam and Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil on Sep. 11, 1996 was the first official meeting between heads of state. Following this historical meeting, President Roh Moo-hyun in Nov. 2004, President Lee Myung-bak in Nov, 2008, and President Park Geun-hye in April 2010 visited Brazil. And in Jan. 2001, Brazilian President Fernando Enrique Cardoso visited Korea for the first time since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Then President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva in May 2005 and President Jair Bolsonaro on July 8, 2019 visited Korea.
On Oct. 5, 2020, President Moon Jae-in personally spoke with President Jair Bolsonaro of the Federal Republic of Brazil for 20 minutes, and the two Presidents discussed various matters of mutual interest, including the election of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
At the time, President Moon said, “I find it fortunate that the recent COVID-19 situation in Brazil is stabilizing to some extent and that your economy also seems to be on track for recovery.” Moon then went on to say, “Brazil is the country where Korea has its largest presence in Central and South America, and I look forward to our two coun- tries expanding bilateral cooperation, not only in COVID-19 responses but also in various fields such as trade, infrastructure, science, technology and healthcare.”
In amicable response to Moon’s remarks, President Bolsonaro said that he had visited Korea before becoming President and that he has always respected and regarded Korea as an exemplary country.
Korea has global competitiveness in various fields, including bio energy. In addition, the youthful dynamism of the average national age of 32 and the diversity of various races is evaluated as a valuable source of national strength.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1959, Korea and Brazil have continuously expanded and developed close cooperative relations in various fields such as politics, economy, science and technology, culture and environment.
Korea and Brazil are developing and continuously increasing their partnership. In 2019, Korea and Brazil celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and started a powerful journey towards a new 60 years.
If the ongoing trade negotiations between Korea and Mercosur are successfully concluded, it will be a turning point that will dramatically change the human and material exchanges between Korea and Brazil, and trade and investment between
the two countries is expected to further increase.