The following article was kindly conributed by former Ambassador Mustapha Khammari of Tunisia in Seoul at the request of The Korea Post for the exchange of formal and informal views with an eye to promoting the relations, cooperation and friendship between Korea and all the countries of the world.?Ed.
Dearest friend and colleague, Lee Kyung-sik, my purpose is to greet my many Korean friends and all those generous and friendly people among whom I spent three years as ambassador of my country, Tunisia.
Since my return home by late 2010, I have retired as ambassador but went backwards to my original activity as a journalist. It helps me in feeding and strengthening my knowledge of Korea, its great civilization, rich history and traditions. I read in French and English languages numerous translated novels, essays, and biographies of Korean authors like Ms. Kyung-Sook Shin of whom I've read her admirable novel, "Eomma-reul Butak-hae" (엄마를 부탁해, “Please Look After Mon”) and her latest "I’ll Be There." As well, I read Lee Chang-rae’s "The Surrendered,” Hwang Seok-Young’s "Oraedoen Jeongwon” (The Old Garden), Kim Young-ha’s superb "Bit-eui Jeguk" (Empire of Lights) and other novels and movies that allow me to enhance my knowledge of Korean people’s contemporary history through the memories of difficult times of occupation war that divided country's north and south.
I discovered during three unforgettable years a high spirit of the great people in a great country, and the extraordinary example of economic, industrial, cultural and human progress, forged by years of occupation and embers of a terrible war that divided the country to date. I had discovered a lot more than what my readings taught me about the determination of the Korean people to win the progress and challenge. I appreciated the fighting spirit, the high sense of the job well done, and the chase for acquiring further knowledge. Furthermore, I appreciated Korean people’s unshakable will to reach the highest ranking among the Asian region and the world.
I spent three wonderful years in your beautiful country where I made many friends and enjoyed the Korean culture as much as my limited knowledge of the language could allow me. I also enjoyed the "fighting" and "Bballi, Bballi" synonymous of love of work and of challenge to be the best.
I loved kimchi, bibimbap, samgyetang, tteokguk, japchae, bulgogi… the beautiful landscapes, festivals and especially the people’s desire for further openness to the world as well as their endeavors to let the world know more about the Korean civilizations…
We have worked together, Tunisians and Koreans, and developed tangible activities aiming at strengthening secular Tunisian-Korean relations. One hundred Korean friends visited Tunisia during my stay in Seoul. They built up a friendship body and became ambassadors of Tunisia in Korea. I seize the opportunity of “Seollal” to express to them and their families my best wishes.
Opportunities for exchanges and cooperation between our two countries need further actions and more and aggressive dynamism from both sides. The geographical position of Tunisia, in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, less than one hundred kilometers of Italian coast and in the top promontory of African continent, as well as part of the Arab and Islamic world, constitutes a competitive advantage for Korea in its search for win-win partnerships with Europe and the Middle East. Partnership with the Gulf region and Africa should be looked at as a promising area of prospective fruitful potentials. Although, during my mission in Korea, we had embarked with our Korean friends on cooperation activities in areas such as agriculture, education, industry, environment and good governance, achievements fall rather short from the expectations of our two peoples. Tunisia is a great hub for Korean industries that target European, African and Arab markets. Tunisian Industry remains open to partnership and foreign investment. Meaningful fiscal and legal incentives are granted to foreign investors. Korean manufacturers are encouraged to achieve more investments in Tunisia. They will realize that profitability is guaranteed because of the short distances between Tunisia and the European, the African and the Middle East. Lower production costs are another competitive advantage, compared to those of European countries. Let us try to expand the analysis of opportunities for both countries in a next article. It is essential to start with increasing formal visits for officials and business people and facilitates study tours for students and experts in various economic sectors.
Finally, let me express my warmest and wholeheartedly wishes for success, happiness and good health for all Koreans. I do hope that Korean Lunar New Year brings peace, wealth and ice-breaking between North Korea and South Korea. I do wish that the great Korean people reunite separated families and end the longstanding suffering endured since the war.
Happy Lunar New Year!
▲Former Ambassador Mustapha Khammari of Tunisia in Seoul.
▲Korean friends visiting the ancient Roman monuments in Tunisia