The following are excerpts from an interview with Ambassador Olexander Horin of Ukraine in Seoul recently conducted by The Korea Post media for publication.—Ed.
Question: Please introduce Ukraine’s major achievements in 2017.
Answer:Ukraine has completed the year 2017 with a number of important achievements, one of which is the support of the international community in the struggle to uphold the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The other main achievement of 2017 was the introduction of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens by the European Union. From June 11, 2017, Ukrainians with biometric passports no longer require visas when travelling for short stays of up to 90 days to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, as well as the four Schengen associated countries.
No less significant was the decision on completing the ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU.
Among our successes – the release of 73 Ukrainian hostages held captive by militants in temporarily occupied areas of eastern Ukraine, Antonov An-132D aircraft maiden flight, large-scale road infrastructure developing, strengthening of the Ukrainian army, the launch of the country’s pension (modernization and stabilization of the solidarity level of the pension system), educational (new principles of teaching and schools’ management), and medical (a modern model of financing of the health-care system) reforms.
I cannot but mention also the extension of the decentralization program and continuation of the judicial reform.
Ukraine scored 76th in Doing Business – 2018 ranking, improving its position from 83rd in 2016. In August 2017 Moody’s has upgraded the Government of Ukraine’s local and foreign currency issuer and senior unsecured ratings to Caa2, and changed the rating outlook to positive from stable.
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: Flagship Korean companies have long established presence in Ukraine. “Samsung Electronics” opened its office in Kyiv in 1996 and is currently considered one of the best employers in Ukraine. It also made to Top 3 Best Companies for Leadership in Ukraine in 2014. Apart from the sales and service activities, the company opened Samsung Research and Development Institute Ukraine, is actively engaged in projects supporting healthy lifestyle, healthcare, youth education and sports. “Samsung Electronics” is sponsoring Ukrainian National Olympic team, which is heading for PyeongChang.
Hyundai family is represented in Ukraine by “Hyundai Motor” and “Hyundai Rotem”. Apart from automobiles, the brand is associated with the first high-speed trains in Ukraine introduced for EURO-2012 football championship.
Quite active in Ukraine is “POSCO-Daewoo”, which is engaged in grain trading and seeks to extend its presence in infrastructure, including port service, while exploring the number of other projects. In October 2016, Protocol of Intent between the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine and “POSCO-Daewoo” for the purpose of the modernization of agricultural machinery in Ukraine for small and medium producers was inked. In 2017 last “Daewoo Lanos” car was produced at Ukrainian “ZAZ” plant, completing long history of cooperation in car manufacturing dating back to 1998.
Korean cosmetics are also finding their way to Ukrainian customers with a number of brands being actively promoted. Recently “It’s Skin” opened its first shop in Kyiv.
Apart from big corporations, small and medium Korean enterprises are actively exploring Ukrainian market. They are engaged in the fields of trading, logistics, IT, restaurant business. Untapped potential here is really huge.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: According to the data of State Statistics Service of Ukraine, the biggest volume of bilateral trade turnover in goods was reached in 2008 – $2.67 billion. In 2016 trade turnover in goods between Ukraine and the Republic of Korea amounted to $668.98 million. Ukrainian export made up $413.7 million, import from the Republic of Korea – $255.28 million.
In 2017 bilateral trade between Ukraine and the Republic of Korea was on the growth trajectory. As of 10 month of 2017, it comprised $539.93 million, with Korean exports increasing by 23% and reaching $266.17 million.
Our outlook for 2018 is optimistic. It is based on improved consumers’ mood in Ukraine, mutual efforts to diversify trade and explore new market opportunities.
At the same time we should avoid protectionist measures damaging bilateral trade. In this regard we are alarmed by the decision of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance of the Republic of Korea to impose 19.06% antidumping duty on import of Ferro-Silico-Manganese from Ukraine, announced in November 2017.
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?
A: As an emerging market with a great scope of untapped potential in many fields Ukraine offers a scope of opportunities for Korean investors and businessmen.
Among the most promising sectors are agribusiness & agritech, energy & alternative energy, IT, infrastructure, aerospace & technology, manufacturing, fashion.
Just consider the following facts. Industry experts predict that by the mid-2020s, Ukraine will be #3 in food production worldwide, second only to the U.S. and Brazil. With due investment it has potential to become world`s #1 grain exporter. Ukraine’s arable land is over 32.5 million hectares with the significant amount of the best fertile black soil (chornozem) representing around 25% of its world reserves. Currently Ukraine is #1 in production of sunflower seeds and oil and sunflower oil exports, #3 in barley production & rye exports, #6 in corn export and #7 in honey exports.
Agricultural segments with attractive returns for investors include food production, cultivation, processing & breeding, alternative fuel production, introduction of new food technologies, construction and modernization of storage, logistic infrastructure, production of agricultural machinery etc.
IT is another frontrunner of Ukrainian economy. There are over 90,000 IT specialists in Ukraine at the moment and this figure is expected to double in the next 3 years, which is the fastest-growing pool of IT professionals in Europe. Ukraine has over 1,000 local IT service companies. More than 100 leading global companies with subsidiaries established their presence here. IT outsourcing is Ukraine’s third largest export sector.
Taking into account my country`s vast industrial and resource base, skilful and well-educated workforce I would also prioritize manufacturing sector. Attractive factors for investors aiming to localize their production in Ukraine are good infrastructural capacity, proximity to major European and Asian markets, free trade regime between Ukraine and the EU, low salaries due to massive depreciation of local currency in 2014-2015.
With all the mentioned factors in play it`s really good time to invest in Ukraine now.
Q: What are your competitive products and/or services attractive to Korea and what are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to important?
A: As I mentioned before food security and IT are two major fields were Ukraine has competitive edge. Currently we witness growing awareness of inevitable 4th Industrial revolution. Disruptive technologies are at the forefront of changes. To move forward we should prioritize innovation and start-ups.
For example, PocketBook Company, which was founded in Ukraine, is world’s 4th largest manufacturer of electronic readers based on the E-Ink technology. Co-founders of world-famous companies, such as Apple, PayPal and WhatsApp, are of Ukrainian origin.
Ukrainian scientists made numerous fundamental discoveries in physics, mathematics, medicine, electronics, and computer sciences. Ukraine is famous for its aerospace engineering industry, as it possesses a full cycle of aerospace hardware engineering and production.
This year “Cards” and “Preply.com”, companies founded by Ukrainians, have won an international startup competition K-Startup Grand Challenge 2017 and will be awarded by the National IT Promotion Agency of Korea. “Cards Corp.” is developing “and Cards” – a software service that helps foster networking culture and builds community at co-working centers. “Preply” is a global online marketplace for tutoring.
We are really interested in advanced Korean technologies and resources to develop joint products, both software and hardware.
There are many things we can move forward with and I really want to see relations between Ukraine and the Republic of Korea evolve into strategic partnership.
Q: As Your Excellency is new in Korea, please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: I was born in 1956 in Donetsk, Ukraine. I married to Mrs. Nataliia Tymoshenko and have two children.
After receiving doctoral degree of international affairs and law from the Kyiv State University in 1982, I started working in the Kyiv State University as assistant professor, senior lecturer, associate professor, senior research fellow of the department/institute of international relations.
From Sept. 1993, I began my career as a diplomat at the permanent representation of Ukraine to the UN, New York. From Apr. 2008 to Mar. 2011, I served as a deputy minister of foreign affairs. Later I worked as the ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and till Mar. 2017.
After being appointed as the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Korea by President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko on June. 6, 2017, I presented credentials to President of the Republic of Korea Mr. Moon Jae-in in Nov. 2017.
Q: Please add whatever other details that Your Excellency might consider to be important.
A: In conclusion, I would like to wish the Republic of Korea to successfully host the XXIII Olympic and XII Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. I do expect that national teams of Ukraine and Korea will be performing well both at Olympics and Paralympics and will show their best results there. I’d also like to hope that the Games in Pyeongchang would become a turning point in the process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and its denuclearization. Speaking of our bilateral relations, in my opinion, the time has come for us to think about moving them one notch higher – to a level of special or even strategic. With these thoughts in mind, I wish readers of “The Korea Post” all the best in a new year of 2018.