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Armenia, strong in IT, has excellent potential for increased cooperation with KoreaInterview with Ambassador Grant Pogosyan of Armenia for Korea

By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher, The Korea Post media

Following the recent development of political situation in and around Korea, it is becoming increasingly important for Korea to further diversify and expand the range of its economic cooperation and exchange with other countries of the world. And there still are many countries with whom Korea can promote cooperation and partnership for mutual benefit.
The Republic of Armenia appears to be one of the best countries which has a great extent of potential for increased cooperation and exchange for the promotion of mutual benefit.
This became immediately apparent at an extensive exclusive interview with Dr. Grant Pogosyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to Korea, which was recently arranged in Seoul through the Honorary Consul Kim Do-kyun of Armenia in Seoul. Details of the interview follow:

President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia

Question: What are the competitive fields of industry and products of Armenia attractive to Korea and what are Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
Answer:
Since independence Armenia has undertaken a series of reforms aimed at establishing market economy and improving its investment environment.
One of the pillars of Armenia’s economy is the IT sector. Even during the Soviet period, Armenia has been known as the ‘Silicon Valley of the Soviet Union.’ After the independence of 1991, the industry switched its focus to the software development, outsourcing, and IT services.

IT is already the fastest growing sector of Armenia’s economy, having expanded by an average of over 20 percent annually in the past decade. According to Armenia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Investments, around 15,000 people currently work for 400 or so IT firms operating in the country. Their combined revenue of $550 million in 2015 was equivalent to over 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Many leading IT companies, including in recent years some of the biggest names in the global software industry, such as Intel, Oracle and D-Link, opened their offices in Yerevan. Some leading semiconductor companies, such as Synopsys, with more than 700 employees in Armenia, have eventually created their biggest overseas branches in our country.
Taking into account the importance of IT sector, the Government of Armenia has initiated the setting up of multination tech giants’ training centers in Yerevan and opening state-of-the-art “technology centers” in other major cities.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan of Armenia

Country has also experienced the boom of homegrown IT business. One of which is “PicsArt” which kicked off in 2015 and has already grown into one of the world’s leading mobile photo editing and sharing applications. In the same year, when “Forbes” magazine listed PicsArt as one of the “world’s 50 hottest startups”, the company attracted multi-million-dollar funding from a U.S. venture capital firm. With 90 million monthly users, and with support in over 30 languages, the company is now valued at 300 million US dollars.
Taking into account Korea’s immense experience in IT and Electronics, I suppose the IT sector can become the milestone of our economic cooperation with huge potential of expansion.

Meanwhile, the potential of our bilateral and mutually beneficial cooperation goes beyond the IT sector. And first and foremost, it’s the collaboration in the field of agriculture, which by the dynamic of its development provides a great spectrum for development of trade ties and exploration of investment opportunities. I would like to mention that some of the Korean rural development programs have been already studied and implemented in few regions of Armenia. Particularly,12 Armenian farmers participated in Saemaul Undong program.
I would like to mention that each visitor of the National Assembly of Armenia can be able to see our collaboration in action: all the digital apparatus, including the voting system devices, used in the Parliament of Armenia, are Korean, provided through the funding of KOICA. Our parliamentarians are very grateful for the support of the Korean side and we hope that our cooperation in this field will only prosper.

Our bilateral trade also has huge potential, and both sides are determined to undertake relevant steps in that field. We are indeed importing Korean cars, electronic products. And we export to your country mine concentrates, stone and some chemical products.
One of the aspects we are looking into is the wine export with the revival of Armenian ancient traditions of winemaking (recently, the world’s oldest winery was discovered, which dates back 6100 years) and export of brandy.
The volume of our trade today remains quite modest, but the potential of growth is certainly big, and for the upcoming years that we will focus on the possibilities to develop mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Ambassador Grant Pogosyan of Armenia for Korea flanked by Honorary Consul Honorary Consul Kim Do-kyun of Armenia in Seoul (left) and Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media.

Q: 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:
We already have a good example of the Armenian-Korean cooperation: the project of building a new combined-cycle power plant for Armenia’s capital Yerevan was implemented mostly (95%) by Korean company GS E&C, and the steam generators were provided by another company Sedae Enertech. The construction was finished in 2010 and it produces almost the quarter of the country’s electricity.
Big names of the Korean industry that already have some experience of doing business in Armenia, are being followed by the small and medium-sized Korean companies, which are already working in Armenia or have started negotiations with Armenian partners. As far as I know, such collaborative projects have been negotiated in, e.g., Solar Panels, Software Development and LED lamp production areas using Korean technologies. While the number of such small and medium-sized Korean companies involved in Armenia is not big, the mutual interest in cooperation is obvious.

Regarding your question, the Armenian economy provides many investment possibilities, and the Korean companies are welcome to explore investment opportunities, particularly in the fields of IT, Mining, Agriculture, Roads and Infrastructure, Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, other fields, like Education, Tourism and Hospitality Services. I would like to mention that a special platform (Invest in Armenia: http://www.investinarmenia.am/en/) has been launched to present the investment possibilities in Armenia, as well as all the necessary database regarding the investment policy of my country.
As for Armenian businessmen, there are already a small number of investments and collaborative projects being implemented in Korea, mainly with IT-related companies. I think, stronger ties and better knowledge of each other will open many doors for investment and collaborative projects in the future.
In general, Armenia as a country and its economy are still not well known in Korea, and we will undertake efforts to fill that gap thus promoting more active cooperation in all the fields.

At my last meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, we agreed that Armenia and Korea should support the establishment of business fora and organization of B2B (business to business) visits, which will create opportunities for broader partnership, unveil new aspects of collaboration and make Armenia as an investment destination more attractive to the Korean companies.

An Armenian woman is all smiles showing dried persimmons very similar to Korea’s gotgam

Q: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and Armenia, including the possible visit of your Head of Government to Korea?
A:
During the meetings on all the levels, the leadership and representatives of Armenia and Korea emphasized mutual determination to move our relations into the next level, substantially strengthen our ties, deepen our collaboration in all the possible areas, intensify our steps aimed at deepening of cultural, political and economic cooperation. Some would consider these as classic words of goodwill; however, the existing great potential of our partnership provides a solid basis for putting that determination into action.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of Armenia-Korea diplomatic relations. Over the past 25 years a solid partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation were built between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Korea. On that occasion, last month, congratulatory letters were exchanged between the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs, indicating that through joint efforts it will be possible to exploit the full potential of the cooperation between the two states and to further expand the friendly relations.
In past years, we have recorded some good collaboration practices, particularly in the field of cultural exchange. We hosted the Korean culture events in Armenia; another one will be organized this summer. We also had chance to present the Armenian culture in Korea during the Caucasus Festival two years ago. In September of 2017 we are planning to organize Armenian Culture Day event in Seoul.

Regardless of the geographical distance between our countries, we should stand strong in our determination to expand and deepen our cooperation both on bilateral and multilateral formats. And in that end we have all the necessary preconditions.
We should also undertake steps to intensify the mutual high-level visits. Over the past years, the Deputy Prime Minister (1994) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1999, 2012) visited Korea. However, there is no record of high-level official from Korea visiting the Republic of Armenia.
It’s worth mentioning that on the other hand the parliamentary diplomacy has been quite active: Friendship Groups have been established within the National Assembly of both Armenia and Korea, and cooperation on this level has been dynamically expanding. The Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia visited Korea in 2009, while the Vice-Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea visited Armenia in 2012. In 2015, delegation from the Korean National Assembly led by the president of the Friendship Group visited Armenia, and last year the group of Armenian parliamentarians visited Seoul.
I think that in future mutual visits will intensify, including on the high-level. During our meeting at the Foreign Ministry of Korea, we stressed our commitment to hold regular political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of our countries. An agreement was reached to held the next one this year either in Yerevan or in Seoul.

Lake Sevan

Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A:
For the past several years, our trade volume has been in-between 50 to 100 million US dollars annually, which indeed does not reflect the potential existing between our countries.
As Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future.” Thus, I will not make any predictions on our trade outlook for the next 12 months, I would simply emphasize that we will spare no efforts to maximize it.
Even though Armenian market is small, we are member of Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) - a huge market with over 180 million population. Moreover, soon we will establish free-trade zone with Iran - another big market of 80 million.
I am confident, these new realities should trigger interest in Korea, providing an opportunity to boost our economic collaboration to a substantially new level.

Khor Virap Monastery

Q: Can you introduce your country more in detail, including your relations with the other countries of the world?
A:
As you know, last year we marked the 25th anniversary of our independence, which was an important milestone to sum up our achievements and outline new steps aimed at more prosperous future.
During that quarter of a century Armenia went through many challenges, overcame many difficulties and has become a full-fledged member of the international community of independent states and has fully assumed its role of the predictable and reliable partner. Since the first day of Armenia’s independence back in 1991, we have been building our relations with other countries for cooperation, security and prosperity of the whole region and beyond, while our cooperation has never been directed against the others. With that in mind we are fully engaging in regional and international organizations. Here I would like to emphasize that next year Armenia will host the 16 Summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie, an organization which organization comprises 54 member states and governments, four associate members and twenty-six observers. This summit will be the biggest, the most large-scale and comprehensive conference on the level of Presidents and Prime Ministers hosted by Armenia since the independence.
Armenia enjoys strong partnerships both on bilateral and multilateral levels: it is a strategic ally of the Russian Federation, is a member of the EAEU and the CSTO, meantime, has dynamically developing partnership with the United States, the EU countries, NATO; we have already initialed Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU, we are strengthening traditionally friendly relations with the Middle East countries, Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. So the foreign policy of Armenia is multi-dimensional.
While speaking about Armenia, one should take into consideration that there are many “Armenia”-s in the world. As you know only a third of our nation lives in Armenia proper. The other two third of our compatriots are scattered over more than a hundred countries in the world. As I know, Korea also has strong connection with Koreans living abroad. In that sense, we share the same policy: the enhancement of Armenia-Diaspora relations is one of the priorities of Armenia’s policy agenda.

People watch grapes in a large wooden container at Areni Wine Festival.

The history of Armenian communities outside Armenia goes back to centuries. However, the major part of Armenian Diaspora was formed as a result of the Armenian Genocide, committed by the Ottoman Turkey in the beginning of the 20th century. 1.5 million Armenians were annihilated, while the rest of the population was forcefully deported to the deserts of Syria. Only small part of the Armenian population survived, thus putting the grounds of strong and vibrant Armenian community in the Middle East.
While completely integrated into the societies of the counters in which they live, the members of the Armenian Diaspora have, nevertheless, preserved the language and traditions of their ancestors, together with the spiritual link – and not only spiritual – with their Homeland. Those people serve as a strong bridge between Armenia and their country of residency. When speaking about the Armenian nation, we don’t only consider the Armenians living in the Republic of Armenia, that’s the whole Armenian nation which stands strong in our common desire to build prosperous Homeland. That’s also a factor which impacted on the geography of our foreign policy.
Referring to the Armenian Diaspora, we can’t bypass the developments in the Middle East. Armenian nation has for centuries been a unique part of the multicultural mosaic of the Middle East. We are grateful to the people of the region who a century ago sheltered hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Now, when the ethnic and religious communities face an existential threat, we feel moral responsibility to stand with them. From Syria alone more than 22 thousand Armenians found refuge in Armenia, making our country the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe on per capita basis.
As a nation which went through the horrors of the first Genocide of the 20th century, we are determined in our goal to elaborate a mechanism to prevent future genocides and crimes against humanity. To that end the Armenian diplomacy, along with its efforts towards the international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide, was very initiative in raising international awareness on prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity. Thus, in 2015, the year when the whole Armenian nation was commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva) adopted Armenia-initiated Resolution on Prevention of Genocide, which reaffirms that any attempt to deny or justify the crime of genocide is a serious obstacle for the steps towards prevention. Based on the recommendation of that very Resolution the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 9, the day when back in 1948 Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide was adopted, as the “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of This Crime.”
In 2015, many nations joined Armenians all over the world to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Such a commemorative event was also held in the National Assembly of Korea, where I had a chance to attend and express my heartfelt gratitude to all our Korean friends, who remembered and offered their sincere sympathy to our nation.
Today Armenia has also become significant contributor to international peace, which is widely reflected by the geography of our engagement in past and present missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Mali (MINUSMA).
However, I would like to emphasize that during the past quarter of a century our vibrant civil society has become one of the main indicator of our enrooting democracy. Our ambitious youth has applied to create the Armenia, the Armenia that our nation has been dreaming about for centuries, that our ancestors were fighting for and the Armenia for the future of which my generation initiated independence movement back in 1991.

Yereven night

Q: How is your relationship with other countries of the region?
A:
Armenia is a landlocked country sharing common borders with four countries.
Armenia and Georgia have been established relations based on centuries old friendship, mutual respect and understanding, and are currently moving forward in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation. It has been reiterated on numerous occasions that there are no problems between Armenia and Georgia, there are issues that are being solved through joint efforts. And the intensity of visits and interactions of the leadership of the two countries proves that.
Armenia and Iran are connected with multiple ties, which are, first and foremost, the relations with a millennia-old history, deep respect between the two peoples, the esteem towards each other’s culture, and the friendly cooperation, based on that solid foundation. Iran Nuclear Deal opened new perspectives of cooperation between the two friendly countries.
Back in 2008, the President of Armenia initiated the process of normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without any preconditions. Our initiative, supported by the whole international community, led to the signing of two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2009 in Zurich. However, right after the signing ceremony Turkey abruptly changed its position and laid some preconditions for the implementation of those protocols, by linking it to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
The leadership of Armenia initiated that process even though it faced severe criticism from the Diaspora, majority of whom are the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, which the leadership of Turkey continues to blindly deny. However, the leadership of my country was determined in its vision of establishing wall of cooperation, not dividing borders in the region. Unfortunately, the Turkish leadership doesn’t share that vision, which is also reflected in its policy of land blockade of Armenia in gross violation of international commitments. It continues to severely hamper regional transit communication routes, economic cooperation and integration.

Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including his major achievements.
A:
Since independence Armenia has been a semi-presidential republic with President Serzh Sargsyan is the head of state, who is currently serving his second term in office. He is the third president of the Republic of Armenia, since Armenia’s independence in 1991.
A year ago, at the nation-wide referendum, the citizens of Armenia voted for a significant constitutional reform that will change the system of country’s governance from the current semi-presidential system to a fully parliamentary republic. Under the new system, the executive branch, i.e., the government, including the prime minister who will become the leader of the country, will be accountable to the legislative branch, i.e., to the National Assembly. The new system will come into force next year, following the completion of President Sargsyan’s term in office.
Under the new Constitution, Parliamentary elections were held in Armenia on April 2. Before that new Electoral Code was adopted with participation of all political forces represented in the parliament and representatives of the civil society, which was a significant step in further strengthening public trust towards the electoral process. Respect of fundamental freedoms, well-organized electoral process, considerable improvement of the accuracy of voters’ lists, creation of competitive and equal conditions for all political forces, use of new technologies, insurance of secrecy of vote, transparency in vote counting greatly contributed to the success of the electoral process. For observing those elections, the state has encouraged and did not limit in any way the engagement of observers, the number of which reached 30000. Around 1200 journalists were accredited to cover the elections. All our work has been emphasized by the assessments of the international observers.
Our commitment is to build stronger, more democratic and prosperous Armenia, and the support of our international partners has played a great role in accomplishing our mission.

Armenian girls at Areni Wine Festival

Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A:
Armenia is called a “museum under the open sky” – every visitor will be able to find everything based the purpose of visit.
To the visitors, Armenia opens up as a mixture of modern society with centuries-old traditions and culture, it’s a place where the Western lifestyle is based on Eastern traditions. There are some keywords that describe Armenia’s specifics and its attractiveness as a tourist destination.
Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301, 79 years before Rome. Along with the Garni Pagan Temple there are thousands of monasteries, churches, cross-stones and temples, countless historical artifacts available to visitors. A number of Armenian monasteries and cathedrals are inscribed in the World Heritage List by UNESCO, and many describe Armenia’s territory as a vast open-air museum.
Armenia is one of the main destinations for the lovers of star-gazing: the menhirs of Karahunge may have been erected over 2,000 years before those at Stonehenge!
The world’s oldest bronze foundry, recently found in Metsamor, might suggest that bronze was first made in Armenia,
Ancient Armenians carved entire cities out of rock. Some of them, like Khndzoresk, were continuously inhabited until the last century.
Yerevan, our “Pink city,” is one of the oldest cities in the world. The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. Still our beloved city has its “birth certificate” displayed at the Erebuni Fortress—a cuneiform inscription left by King Argishti I of Urartu on a basalt stone slab about the foundation of the city.
In Autumn of 2018, Yerevan will be celebrating 2800 years since its founding, and has been recognized as the oldest continuously inhabited capital in the world. We expect extensive flow of incoming tourists to join our festivities.
With the oldest winery Areni-1 Cave Complex and revival of winemaking traditions, Armenia is also becoming a leading destination for oenophiles. We are hosting annual wine festival in Areni. In the beginning of May, we will host the Yerevan wine festival. The wineries of Ararat valley attract tourist groups for wine tasting tours. The revival of our winemaking tradition has also been assessed by international prizes the Armenian products have recently received. In 2012, an Armenian wine Zorah made of a local grape variety Areni Noir was listed in the top ten wines of the world by Bloomberg.
Located on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Armenian culture contains elements of both western and eastern traditions. This can be seen in folk art, food, ethnic dresses, dances and songs as well as in the way of life.
Besides the folk traditions, Armenia offers a great deal of cultural discoveries in the classical and contemporary music and art. Armenia is the hub for Jazz lovers: Armenian Jazz traditions now are enriched by works of new names, such as Tigran Hamasyan and Mikayel Voskanyan, who mainly present the jazz style of the Armenian folk tradition.
There are must-visit tourist stops both in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia. One of them is Matenadaran – the Institute and Museum of Ancient Manuscripts, which is the world’s richest depository of manuscripts and books, where the visitors can see the unique collection and get acquainted with medieval traditions in manuscript publishing.
However, the Government of Armenia has initiated projects to develop new directions of tourism, e.g., eco and adventure tourism. Last year, for the first time, Armenia hosted the Base-Jumping Festival in “Tatever” – the longest aerial tramway in the world, which also provides an opportunity to the jumpers to enjoy the picturesque gorges and Tatev – the famous monastic complex.
National Geographic recently listed Armenia as one of the five destinations for food lovers. Even though the Armenian cuisine has some resemblance with the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and European cuisines ones, it is also known for a wide variety of typical traditional food. One of them is Lavash – the Armenian bread. It is a very thin bread, like paper, which is baked in “tonir” – a cylindrical clay oven that used to be available in many households. “Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia,” is inscribed in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
It goes beyond saying that the agricultural products of Armenia won’t leave any visitor of my country indifferent. The juicy Armenian Apricot has been known to our neighbors since the ancient times. The word Apricot in several old languages translated as “Armenian fruit.” In Latin apricot is “Prunus Armeniaca.”
And the last but not the least - Armenia is one of the safest places for tourists to visit. Particularly Yerevan is listed very high in the World’s Safest Capital Cities ranking.
In conclusion, let me say that in past ten years the number of tourists steadily grew, and I really hope that more Korean tourists will discover Armenia as an attractive destination to visit.

Adventure tourism in Armenia

Q: Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A:
I am not a career diplomat. Before my current position as ambassador, for about 40 years I was a scholar working mostly in academic institutions, both in Armenia and abroad. In fact, a big part of my professional career, for over 20 years, I spent in Japan as a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the International Christian University (ICU), which is one of the most prestigious private universities located in suburbs of Tokyo. At ICU, I also served as the Dean of the Graduate School for two terms, and had the privilege to lead various academic reforms and to found the Global Leadership School – a summer residential program for industry managers. The latter is successfully operating for the past seven years and provides leadership skill trainings in English for business managers.
Being one of the very few Armenians in Japan, I was also involved in bridging the public and government bodies of the two countries. For some time, I served as the Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Armenia for Japanese Affairs. I presume that the volunteer activities outside my academic work, eventually led to my new career as a diplomat and my appointment as the first Ambassador to Japan, and later to Korea.
Like my career, the list of my hobbies is also diverse – from swimming, hiking and basketball to painting and playing on a guitar. By the way, the mountaineering trip to Pamir - my first visit to Asia – was the time when I first tried kimchi and other Korean delicacies. I enjoyed visiting the so-called “Korean lanes” in the farmer market there.
Currently, with my age and busyness, I find less time to dedicate to my hobbies, and now whenever time permits, I do some painting and calligraphy.
Last year, my wife and I celebrated the 40th anniversary of our marriage. We have a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.

Q: Your Korean honorary consul in Korea, we understand, has been performing a wonderful job bringing the two countries closer together. What is your view of him and his activities?
A:
The best assessment of the work of the honorary consul of Armenia to Korea can be given by the Korean people: he is the bridge between our two nations and the fact of your interest in my country only gives positive feedback of his work. Since his appointment, Mr. Kim Do-Kyun has been actively working towards enhancement of our bilateral relations. And his personal characteristic is even higher: he is not just an honorary consul, he is a good friend of mine, he is a good friend of the Armenian people.
There are very few people in Korea who are acquainted with Armenia, or who have ever visited my country. Mr. Kim is among those who know my country quite well. Thanks to him, now I have many good friends in Seoul, including politicians, parliament members, business and culture representatives.
Mr. Kim is also connected with the Armenian community in Korea. The Armenian community is comparably small, but consists of mainly young and bright Armenian engineers and scientists, residing with their families. By the way, about 40 of them are working for Samsung and related industries. Mr. Kim has demonstrated his readiness and support to their community needs.
Mr. Kim Do-Kyun is indeed doing a wonderful job and we are lucky to have him as our honorary consul here, in Seoul. I am sure our collaboration and friendship will continue.

Q: How would you like to introduce yourself to the Korean people?
A:
I am a representative of a nation which has millennia-old history, overcame numerous challenges and difficulties, and not only survived, but thrived in all the corners of the world. While some were struggling to destroy Armenia, now they are faced by hundreds of Armenians and millions of Armenians.
I am a representative of an ancient nation, whose sons and daughters have made quite an impact on the human history. Science, art, politics, finance – you’d be hard pressed to find a field, in which Armenian men and women don’t thrive. I will just name few of them – Luther George Simjian, inventor of the ATM, Raymond Vahan Damadyan, visionary inventor of the first magnetic scanning machine, now known as MRI, Varaztad Kazanjian, founding father of modern plastic surgery, Ashkhen Hovakimian, first woman to create the first hybrid orchid, Shavarsh Karapetyan, seventeen-time world champion fin-swimmer and fearless savior of many lives. This list can go on and on.
We are a small country, but a big nation. Religion, traditions, “cult” of chess, astronomical observatories, and a 1600-year-old alphabet - these are a few parts of the rich history and culture of the Armenian nation.
Having worked closely with many Koreans, I find some similar traits with the Armenians, among which are commitment to family, hardworking ethic and readiness to face challenges.
I know that the history of the Korean people was not smooth either, but I also know the miraculous progress performed and remarkable achievements of your nation during the past decades.
We not only have similarity from the history point of view, but also, we both face the same challenge of unpredictable authoritarian neighbor. Thus, first and foremost, I wish a sustainable peace in the Korean peninsula.

Q: What is the prospect of upgrading the present status of diplomatic relations, including the possibility of mutual upgrading of the present level to establishment of your resident embassy in Seoul?
A:
Diplomatic relations are based on the principle of reciprocity, and promotion of relations is normally done through negotiations and visits where mutually beneficial agreements could be reached.
Now we are steadily moving in the direction of enhancing and further expanding our bilateral cooperation in all the areas, which in future will eventually lead to the opening of resident Embassies in Armenia and Seoul, respectfully.
As I have mentioned we have reached an agreement of holding political consultations between the Foreign Ministries of our countries, which will serve as a good platform to discuss important issues of our bilateral agenda.

Lee Kyung-sik  edt@koreapost.com

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