Ambassador Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan of Colombia and Mrs. Elsa Patricia Calderon Carmona hosted a reception at the Crystal Ballroom of the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on July 26, 2018 in celebration of the 208th Independence Day of Colombia.
At the meeting, Ambassador Pablo Rodriguez read a passage of a letter sent by a Korean War veteran to his sweetheart during the Korean War (1950-3), which read in part, “…Directed not even to my mother since you know they would break her, but to you, my beautiful and distant Colombian, to you, who were my one and only love all my life: Do not ever forget me, for I will carry your love to the Heaven.”
Many important guests attended the reception from all walks of life in Korea as well as from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and other segments of international community in Korea.
Among the Korean guests in attendance were CEO Kim Dae-shik of Shinbo, CEO Seok-beom Kim of Hiliving, and Principal Pianist Shin Myeong-jin of Seoul Symphony Orchestra.
There also were many important leaders from the Korean government and various other segments of society, including the media whence came many publishers and editors who included Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media.
Excerpts from the speech of the ambassador follow:
“Today, on May 14th, 1700 hours at the Colombian war front in Korea, I would like to confess: by the time you receive this letter, even if it is not God's will, I will probably be dead. If I survive, on my chest will hang banners of honor as a war veteran… my last words will be (as follows), directed not even to my mother, since you know they would break her, but to you, my beautiful and distant Colombian, to you, who were my one and only love all my life. Do not ever forget me, for I will carry your love to heaven.”
Fragment from a love letter, written by First Lieutenant Vladimir Valek Moure, from San Yang Ri, to his beloved Mary, in Bogota, Colombia.
During the year of 1951, in August, Colombia answered to the UN`s call, by sending more than 5.000 infantry men and three war Navy vessels to participate in conflict to defend South Korea from the banishment of Democracy. It was Colombia`s first participation in an armed conflict away from its home soil, which sadly left 213 killed in action soldiers and 448 wounded, it was an honorable and heroic sacrifice for peace on Korean soil. Today, in such a special day, and before our war veterans, I would like to pay tribute to those heroes who renounced the most precious God given gift: Life.
Since those days we have sustained marvelous political, diplomatic, economic and military relations between the two nations, we have always strengthen these ties, as confirmed by President Juan Manuel Santos, during his visit to South Korea, during which this admirable nation, provided the establishment of a "Strategic Cooperation Association". Additionally, South Korean presidents have visited Colombia during 2012 and 2015.
Since 2016, this cooperation has focused in five fundamental aspects, regional development, transportation and mobility, communications and information technologies, industrial development and participation in a post conflict environment, for which, we recently received an important support.
Economic and commercial relationships are an essential component of the bilateral relationship that South Korea and Colombia share. Without a doubt, the Free Trade Treaty, now in effect for two years, has allowed for the relationship between the two nations to reach a special level.
For 2017, the bilateral commercial interchange reached figures higher than USD $ 1.250 million. Colombian exportations to South Korea rose to an astonishing USD $457 million, reaching a 14% increase compared to 2016.
Recently, during 2018, between January and April, Colombian exportations reached a value of USD $ 190 million, which represent an 87% increase, in 2017, exportations reached USD $101 million during the same months. And if we continue to sustain this increase rate, we could well reach a figure of USD $570 million during 2018.
On the other side, importations to South Korea reached USD $791 million, which means that South Korean manufactured product`s market, continuously grows in Colombia.
Our exportation opportunities to South Korea are related to the agro industrial sector, which simultaneously is one of the axis proposed by the government to consolidate the peace agreement, which ended a half of a century conflict in Colombia.
Today, we sell coffee, coffee extract, insecticide, flowers, pineapples, fruit concentrate, coal and other such products. Colombian shrimp recently arrived to the South Korean markets and we hope to soon have products such as bananas, dehydrated fruits, cocoa, chocolate and other sweets.
Additionally, in the last two years we have pleasantly seem how South Korean enterprises have begun to discover the potential of Colombia as an exportations platform. Two South Korean enterprises have invested in Colombia's agro industrial sector, and have exported products such as pitahaya, coffee, and sugar cane extract. Likewise, two of the most important South Korean conglomerates such as SK Holding, by creating an investment fund in Colombia and LG Electronics by inaugurating their distribution center in Palmira, Valle.
In like manner, the quality of our innovations has become evident to South Korean enterprises. This year was witness to the first investments in the services sector, especially in the development of video games, by recent acquisition of a Colombian enterprise by Netmarble, the second largest enterprise in South Korea for this sector.
In educational matters, the South Korean Ministry for Education, some universities and municipalities, such as, Incheon, have developed various discipline training courses for Colombian professors, we have also received monetary support from the South Korean government and various universities for graduate and post graduate programs, we will continue to strengthen interchange experiences between the two nations. I would also like to highlight the support Colombia has received from South Korean foundations such as, Woojung and Samsung.
In like manner, cultural and sports diplomacy have been noticeably relevant for relations between South Korea and Colombia, we have had very important interchanges, which have made acknowledgement of our nation`s costumes by both peoples, greater, this has led to much closer bilateral relations. The recent photographic art gallery by South Korean Pacific Alliance Foundation, performances by special artistic groups which represent the Colombian folklore, and the upcoming exposition and exhibition by the Bank of the Republic of Colombia's Gold Museum in South Korea`s National Museum, to be titled ¨The Spirits Gold and the Shaman¨; These are irrefutable acts which should be admired as evidence of clear cultural interchange regardless of the distance between the two nations.
As far as the Defense Sector goes, we have maintained close interchange and coordinated training events, to more efficiently fight transnational crime and in order to strengthen our strategic capabilities, and the support and attention provided to our veterans. Yesterday, in collaboration with the local government in Incheon, Asian Airlines, the Colombian Army, the Ministry of Patriots and War Veterans of South Korea and the Seventeenth South Korean Infantry Division, the park in memory of the fallen Colombian Soldiers during the Korean War, was inaugurated.
This sacrifice will always reside in the hearts of all South Koreans, sealing for eternity the friendship between two nations, who regardless of distance, have a story in common… a story of warriors who from a different latitude in the globe, a different culture, and a different flag, came to fight for a nation, which received their blood and became their own, leaving behind an eternal feeling of heroism and courage to never be erased from the memories of today's South Korea.
I would like to express feelings of gratitude for the entire Colombian community here united. Likewise, to all students who have come here seeking academic formation. Your efforts to learn and obtain greater knowledge, will become the future of Colombia.
I could not finish this intervention without thanking all of you for your assistance, and wishing everyone, all success' during your stay in this beautiful country.