By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporters Kim Jung mi, Kim Sua
Ambassador Lescouhier Peter of the Kingdom of Belgium in Seoul said, “Belgium has a very central location in Europe, which makes it interesting for logistics companies and Belgium is an excellent place to distribute to other European countries.”
Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post media (33 years old and owning and operating 3 English, 2 Korean-language news publications) on the occasion of the National Day of Belgium on July 21, 2018, Ambassador Peter stated that the big players like Hyundai, Samsung, KIA and Doosan have also already found their way to Belgium and so have Lotte who took over the Flemish Guylian, just as Hancom did with iText from Ghent.
Belgium is known among Koreans as a country of rich diversity and that she has developed a federal state, making it a model of social and national integration. Since the establishment in 1901 of diplomatic relations between Korea and Belgium, the two countries have been fostering close cooperation in a whole range of fields, spanning the political, economic, and cultural sectors. The Korean people cherish a deep sense of gratitude to Belgium for the helping hand they extended to Korea during the Korean War and also the assistance given Korea at the time of the economic crisis in the 1990s.
Since the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1962, Korea and Luxembourg have continued to develop friendly and cooperative relations, and as members of the UN Security Council for the term of 2013-14, the two countries further enhance cooperation for the peace and stability of the world.
Ambassador Peter spoke on a wide range of topics at the interview, which included the National Day of Belgium, diversity of the country, Korean companies in Belgium and tourist attractions in the country. Excerpts from the interview follow:
Question: Please introduce the National Day of Belgium.
Answer: On 21 July 1831 Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg swore allegiance to the new Belgian constitution, thereby becoming Belgium’s first King. 21 July was formally established as the national day of Belgium by law in 1890. As many people are on summer holiday on 21 July, most Belgian Embassies organize the National Day Reception on November 15th, at the occasion of King’s Feast. November 15 is the name day of Leopold.
Q: Please introduce the Head of Government of your country in full, including his family and hobbies.
A: Following the abdication of his father, King Albert, Prince Philippe was sworn in before the combined chambers of parliament on 21 July 2013 as the seventh King of the Belgians. As head of state, it is the King’s task to unify, represent and encourage the people. During his reign, He showed a particular interest for social integration, education (dual training), social entrepreneurship and youth. The King represents the Kingdom of Belgium abroad at the highest level: his recent State Visits include China (2015), Japan (2016), India (2017) and Canada (2018).
The King was educated at the Belgian Royal Military Academy, and chose to join the Air Force, where he qualified as a fighter pilot. He continued his academic studies abroad: after one term at Trinity College, Oxford (UK), he spent two years at Stanford University in the US, where he graduated with an MA in Political Science. As Honorary President of the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency since 1993 the then Prince Philippe led 85 economic missions abroad in 20 years. The Prince Philippe Fund was set up in 1998 to promote dialogue between citizens from Belgium’s three language communities of Dutch, French and German speakers and to foster greater mutual recognition and respect for their individual identities and cultures.
He married Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz in 1999. They have four children: Princess Elisabeth (2001), Prince Gabriel (2003), Prince Emmanuel (2005) and Princess Eléonore (2008).
Holidays are spent with family and friends. In their free time, the King and Queen enjoy reading and playing sport. The King goes running regularly and took part in the Brussels 20km race several times already.
Q: Who are the Korean companies actively contributing to the economic cooperation between the two countries?
A: Belgium has a very central location in Europe, which makes it interesting for logistics companies (such as Sejung Shipping). Belgium is an excellent place to distribute to other European countries. For example, Daemo Engineering has been present in Belgium since 2005 in order to supply its European customers with world-class hydraulic breakers.
Naturally, the ports play a major role here, especially with the Port of Antwerp. It is the second largest port in Europe and the second largest chemical cluster in the world. This makes it not only interesting for companies in the chemical sector, but also for companies in the pharmaceutical sector.
Biotechnology has also developed strongly in the whole of Belgium.
Technological knowledge centers have been spread across the country, active in various sectors. For example, there is a strong concentration of floor coverings around Kortrijk. Korean Nox, one of the leading manufacturers of PVC floor tiles, has a branch there.
And yes, the big players like Hyundai, Samsung, KIA and Doosan have also already found their way to Belgium.
Lotte has taken over the Flemish Guylian, just as Hancom has done with iText from Ghent.
Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade, and its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: According to our trade statistics in 2017 South Korea was the 35th most important export market for Belgium, with 1.6 billion euro of exports. It was also the 25th supplier of Belgium with 2.5 billion euro of imports. The balance of trade in goods with South Korea closed in 2017 therefore with a deficit. We run however a small surplus in the trade of services.
In 2017, the main export goods from Belgium to South Korea were: chemicals (39%), machines and equipment (14%), plastics (9%), transport equipment (7%) and food products (6%). As far as the services sector is concerned, this mainly concerns commercial services, transport, copyright, royalties and licenses and telecommunications and IT services.
In 2017, imports from South Korea to Belgium consisted mainly of transport equipment (27%), base metals (20%), machines and equipment (19%) and plastics (13%).
More than four-fifths of our exports are exempt from Korean import duties thanks to the free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea, while all Korean exports to Belgium benefit from the FTA.
The Belgian investments in Korea are small but of choice, and the same goes for the Korean investments in Belgium, the largest one being the acquisition of Guylian by Lotte.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest in and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: I hope more Korean companies will make use of the excellent logistic facilities in Belgium to set up distribution centers that can serve the European Common Market quickly and economically.
Brussels has the advantage of being the center of Europe, and is not only the capital of Belgium, but hosts also the headquarters of both the EU and NATO. It is one of the most important centers of political decision-making, and one of the most important conference centers in Europe.
The regions around it offer excellent opportunities for investors thanks to the density of the road and rail networks, and excellent logistical connections with the Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg, France and the UK.
Furthermore, in comparison with the surrounding countries, Belgium offers low real estate costs and land prices, which, combined with highly educated, multi-lingual employees make a very good base for most types of businesses. Finally, Belgium is also a pleasant country to live in, with a high quality of life, and good food, at a reasonable cost.
Our Belgian business sector invests in many different fields in South-Korea. We have companies that are active in a broad variety of domains including, among others, the agro-food and pharmaceutical sectors. Our regional economic advisors are open to help our companies invest in Korea in any field that they believe is helpful for their future growth.
Q: As the Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, please introduce the progress of bilateral cooperation in the economic, political and other areas so far made during your tenure of office in Korea and your view of the outlook of further development between the two countries.
A: The highlight of my predecessor’s tenure was the Belgian Economic Mission in June last year, presided over by HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, and with the presence of several ministers, including Mr. Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs.
Since the participation of Belgian volunteers in the defense of the Republic of Korea against aggression from the north in 1950, the political relations between our two countries have been excellent, with high-level visits in both directions. We hope to welcome President Moon again in Brussels in October this year, not only for the EU-ASEM and the EU-Korea Summit but for high-level bilateral contacts as well. HH Majesty King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are considering to pay a state visit to Korea next year.
In the academic field mention should be made of the Ghent University Global Campus in Incheon offering bachelor degree programs in environmental technology, food technology and molecular biotechnology and the Solvay R&I Centre at the EHWA, which develops advanced materials for electronic and automotive markets.
Initiatives have been taken the last years to strengthen the ties between both countries. Two years ago the Working Holiday Program Agreement between Belgium and South Korea entered into force. This agreement allows up to 200 young people per year, from the two countries, to receive a visa to stay in the other country for one year and work for a period of time.
Q: The Korean business leaders as well as the FTAs want rest and recuperation. What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: Korean tourists to Belgium are most familiar with Brussels and the mediaeval art cities in the north of the country, such as Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent. But the south of the country has a lot to offer as well in terms of castles, lush forests and delicious food.
Brussels, as capital of Europe, is easily reachable from Paris or Amsterdam, and is an upcoming force in the international art scene.
Something that can be found all over the country: Belgians like to eat well. While famous for our waffles, beer, and fries Belgium has a lot more gastronomic delights on offer, like the famous waterzooi - a chicken or fish broth served with veggies and potatoes. If you don’t like meat, Ghent has been described by several internet travelogues as the vegetarian capital of the world!
If comic books are your thing, then you just might have another reason to visit Belgium – home to an array of comic cartoons, with the most famous being Tin-Tin. Brussels hosts a Comic Strip Center, and in Louvain-la-Neuve you can find the Hergé museum, completely dedicated to Tin-Tin’s creator!
For music lovers, Belgian summer can be very attractive, as Belgium hosts a broad range of festivals, with the most famous being Tomorrowland, which takes place every year in July.
Q: Please add whatever other details that we might have left out from our questionnaire.
A: Some Belgians are well-known in Korea:
There is Julian Quintart who is regularly on the South Korean TV. He has been called a "Jack of all trades". He appearing in SBS “Way to Eat Well and Live Well” and KBS Star Golden Bell, on dramas, including “Sky High,” and has performed on Inkigayo. He's been in the movies Papa and My Tutor Friend 2, has held concerts, modeled, been a DJ and music producer.
Furthermore, Frederik Sioen (°1979), better known by his stage name Sioen, is a Belgian singer and songwriter, who is often performing in Korea as well.
Denis Sungho is a Belgian-Korean awarded guitarist and producer. In 2018, Denis Sungho was appointed as artistic director of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games for the IOC President event. He led the music curations and supervision for VIP from the worlds of politics and business, from arts and society as well as many Olympic athletes, past and present.
Internationally famous Belgian artists who performed in Korea include: The Cantate Domino boys choir from the city of Aalst, contemporary dance choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, flautist Marc Grauwels, neo-conceptual artist Wim Delvoye and photographer Mark De Fraeye.
And of course, thanks to the recent World Cup, also our footballers of the Belgian Red Devils , like Kevin De Bruyne or Romelu Lukaku, are well known in Korea.
Q: Please introduce yourself as the new ambassador of Belgium to Korea:
A: (Please see resume attached hereunder.)
Resume of Ambassador Lescouhier:
Peter Gaston Marcella Lescouhier, proposed as Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Korea, with the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as his jurisdiction.
Born in Brugge (Belgium) on March 29th, 1961
Married to XIANG Xueqiu, one daughter (Annie)
1985-1986: Fudan University (Shanghai, PRC): modern Chinese history
1984-1985: Nanjing University (Nanjing, PRC): modern Chinese language
1983-1984: State University Ghent (Ghent, Belgium): Master degree Press and Communication Sciences
1979-1983: State University Ghent (Ghent, Belgium): Master degree Oriental Philology (modern and classical Chinese)
1973-1979: Secondary education (Bruges, Belgium): Latin and sciences
July 2018-now: Ambassador to the Republic of Korea and to the DPRK
June 2015-June 2018: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Head N.E. Asia Division
Aug 2012-June 2015: Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania
Sep 2011-July 2012: Advisor at the Asia and Oceania Department (DAO) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Oct 2009-June 2011: Belgian liaison diplomat assisting the Hungarian “focal point” in charge of the coordination within the trio EU-Presidency (ES-BE-HU) during the preparation and the duration of the trio Presidency of the Council of the EU (January 1st 2010 till June 30th 2011)
Sep 2006-Oct 2009: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate External Action of the EU (responsible for EU enlargement policy, relations of the EU with the eastern partners of the European Neighbourhood Policy, EU-Russia, EU-China)
Sep 2002-Aug 2006: Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU (spokesperson for BE in the WG Environment, ad hoc WG on chemical substances (REACH), WG Amlat, WG external fisheries)
Feb 2000-July 2002: Pristina (Head of the liaison office of Belgium in Kosovo)
Sep 1997-Jan 2000: Manila (Deputy Head of Mission)
Sep 1991-Aug 1997: Beijing (Second Secretary in charge of Press and Cultural Affairs, First Secretary in charge of Economic Affairs)
1987-1988: Assistant manager Travel Agency Tozai Travel (Amsterdam, Holland)
Mother tongue: Dutch
Good active and passive knowledge of French, English, Chinese
Fair active and good passive knowledge of German
Passive knowledge of Japanese
Hobbies: Reading and translating classical Chinese poetry