Currently, Korean ambassadors are posted to a large number of foreign countries for promotion of national interest. However, diplomacy is not a monopoly for diplomats or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Korea is actively involved in inter-parliamentary diplomacy. The National Assemblymen may carry out more diplomatic activities than the ambassadors, and play an important role in strengthening relationships between Korea and foreign countries.
One of them is Rep. Hwang Young-cheul who serves as chairman of the Korea-Azerbaijan Inter-parliamentary Friendship Association. The Korea Post interviewed Rep. Hwang of the Bareun Party to talk about a range of activities of the Inter-Parliamentary Association which marks the 25th anniversary this year and Korean-Azerbaijan ties.
Question: What led you to participate in the Korea-Azerbaijan Inter-parliamentary Friendship Association?
Answer: It was in 2012 when I become the Korean-side chairman of the Korea-Azerbaijan Inter-parliamentary Friendship Association. Since then, I have sought to enhance bilateral relationships between Korea and Azerbaijan.
For instance, I hosted a luncheon meeting for First Vice-Speaker of Azerbaijan National Assembly Ziyafat Asgarov who visited in Korea in April 2014. In December of the year, I visited Baku heading a group of Korean parliamentarians at the invitation of the Azerbaijan National Assembly. While there, I and my colleagues met with a number of parliamentarians, high-ranking government officials and leading cultural figures, with bilateral ties high on the agenda. We also met with representatives of Korean companies doing business in Azerbaijan to talk about bilateral business relations.
After returning to Seoul, I hosted a luncheon meeting for Azerbaijan students who were in Korea for advanced studies. I arranged for the students to participate in an intern program. I invited Azerbaijan Ambassador Ramzi Teymurov to visit my constituency, Hongseong and Hyeongseong in Gangwon Province. We discussed about the possibility of developing partnerships between constituencies. Moreover, I met with a number of visiting Azerbaijan government officials, business leaders and parliamentarians. In 2013, Azerbaijan National Assembly Speaker Ogtay Asadov met a Korean National Assembly delegation led by then Vice-Speaker Park Byeong-seug. He underlined that Baku places much emphasis on development of ties with Korea. He noted that such visits are of huge importance for discussing outstanding tasks. Then Korean National Assembly Vice-Speaker Park Byeong-seug said he saw rapid development of Azerbaijan during his visit.
Q: How do you assess the diplomatic and other exchanges between Korea and Azerbaijan?
A: Since establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1992, the two countries have maintained friendly ties for the past 25 years. The bilateral ties have been further strengthened in 2006 and 2007 with exchanges of visits to Korea and Azerbaijan by government leaders. Stepped-up inter-parliamentary diplomacy also played a role in the strengthening of the bilateral relations. Azerbaijan National Assembly Speaker Ogtay Asadov paid an official visit to Seoul in 2007, while his Korean counterpart Park Hee-tae visited Baku. Vice speakers of Korea and Azerbaijan also visited each other’s country in 2013 and 2014..
Of particular note, Korean members of Korea-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Association visited Baku in 2009 and 2014, which contributed to bolstering bilateral relations.
My Azerbaijan counterpart, Mr. Malik Hasanov deepened his understanding of Korea as he was reelected as the Chairman of Azerbaijan-Korean Parliamentary Friendship Association following the country’s legislative elections. He said that both countries have rich natural resources and there was a base for the expansion of the cooperation in many fields.
Government-level dialogue goes on. Vice minister-level officials of the two countries hold regular meetings to discuss diplomatic and industrial issues.
Azerbaijan leaders, including President Ilham Aliyev, attache importance to economic cooperation with us as they consider Korea as a model of economic development. They tend to believe that both countries will able to develop closer economic relations when Korea’s cutting-edge technology and Azerbaijan’s rich energy resources are combined.
Both Azerbaijan and Korea use Altaic languages, show respect to the elderly and value family unity. People of the two countries share various cultural values.
The Korean language, Hangeul, is increasingly becoming popular in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku opened a Korean language program in 1994, while Baku State University did so in 2007.
Khazar University also initialed a Hangeul education program in 2011. In total, some 100 students are enrolled in the language program. Korea and Azerbaijan celebrate the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year. I think this will serve as a momentum for enhancing bilateral relationships.
Q: As you said, this year marks the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Azerbaijan. What commemorative activities are both countries planning to carry on?
A: As I understand, the foreign ministries of Korea and Azerbaijan are preparing to initiate various exchange programs. Azerbaijan Ambassador to Korea Ramzi Teymurov requested me to co-sponsor various programs to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, as I head the Korea-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Association.
While the diplomatic relations between Korea and Azerbaijan have continued to be advanced for the past 25 years, Azerbaijan hopes to see Koreans’ understanding of the country deepen. This is the reason that I and the National Assembly have decided to co-sponsor a seminar on “the Past and Present of Azerbaijan” and a photo exhibition at the National Assembly.
While far away from Korea geographically, I feel Azerbaijan is close to Korea emotionally in view of mutual friendship and cultural similarities which I have experienced while serving as Chairman of the Korea-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Association. I hope that the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations will be an occasion for Koreans to deepen their understanding of Azerbaijan.
Q: Would you like to discuss about your constituency activities? What are your achievements?
A: The five electoral district (Hongcheon, Cheorwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu and Inje counties in Gangwon Province) is 10 times larger than the whole area of Seoul. In fact, I was elected to the National Assembly from the largest electoral district in Korea.
As a third-term Assemblyman, I am working hard to get the voices of Gangwon residents heard in the national stage of politics. For example, I conducted a “bus tour” (“Respond, National Assemblyman’s Day”) last year to listen to the voices of residents of the five districts. In addition, I tried to secure funds for SOC projects in the five districts. Infrastructure in these areas need to be improved for the purpose of sightseeing.
Q: Is there anything you want to add?
A: I also serve as Chairman of the National Assembly Special PyeongChang Olympic Support Committee. With less than one year left, I feel heavily responsible for the Winter Olympics. People all around the globe will pay attention to Gangwon Province. We need to work harder to make the Olympics a success. All the Koreans, the government and National Assembly should be united to make the global event a great success.
Biography of Rep. Hwang Young-cheul:
Age: 51. Born in July 13, 1965
Party affiliation: Bareun Party (Constituency: Hongcheon, Cherwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu and Inje counties in Gangwon Province). Member of the current 20th-term National Assembly (NA).
July 2016: Chairman of the NA Special PyeongChang Winter Olympic and International Games Support Committee
June 2016: Member of the NA Special Budget& Settlement Committee
June 2016: Member of the NA Safety & Administration Committee
February 2015: Vice Chairman of the Saenuri’s Policy Committee
November 2014: Key member of the NA Special Committee on Improvements of Military Human Rights and Culture.
September 2014: Member of the 19th-term NA National Territory & Transportation Committee. Member of the NA Special Budget-Settlement Committee
March 2013: Standing Chairman of the Pan-national Committee on
People’s Reconciliation and Cooperation
May 2012--May 2016 Member of the 19th-term NA (Hongcheon,
Hyeongseong counties, Gangwon Province, Saenuri Party)
May-December 2012: Secretary general to the Saenuri Party chairman
May 2015: Member of the 18th-term NA (Hongcheon, Hyeongseong counties, Gangwon Province, Saenuri Party)
February—May 2012: Saenuri Party spokesman
December 2011—February 2012: Hannara Party spokesman. Member of the 18th-term NA Agriculture & Fisheries Committee, the Special Budget-Settlement Committee and NA Operation Committee
May 2008—February 2012: Director & spokesman for Hannara Party’s Gangwon Presidential Election Campaign Headquarters, member of the Gangwon Provincial Council and member of the 1st-term Hongcheon y Council.