Ambassador Krzysztof Ignacy Majka of Poland in Seoul said that Korea is the second largest economic partner of Poland in Asia and that Poland is the biggest trade partner of Korea in the Central and Eastern region of Europe. Speaking at an exclusive interview with The Korea Post conducted recently, Ambassador Majka also expressed a deep concern over North Korea’s thermonuclear test. “We believe that such actions pose a threat to the security and stability in the region as well as the international system of non-proliferation and arms control,” said Ambassador Majka. Details of the interview follow:
Question: Many people predict a 'bleak year' for a number of countries in the world in the New Year in terms of their effort to increase trade. What are the prospects of increased trade and economic exchanges between the two countries? What are the areas where the two countries could benefit from each other through increased volume of trade and other forms of economic exchange and cooperation? Please elaborate (as we are allocating adequate space in all five media units of The Korea Post [3 in English and 2 in the Korean-language).
Answer: Poland has become a major actor within the European Union with the largest economy in Central Europe. Real GDP has increased cumulatively by 19% since 2008 and is expected to grow at around 3.5% annually. Poland’s GDP per capita has been also constantly rising: in 1995 it was 43% of the average of EU countries, in 2000 it was 48%, and in 2014 ? already 68% reaching the level of 14,342 USD in 2014. Export has also steadily increased and in 2015 the total amount surpassed 200 billion USD. But still increasing domestic demand remained the main growth driver.
The economic cooperation between Poland and Korea is a pivotal part of the bilateral relationship. We appreciate Korean investments which have been a crucial part of Polish-Korean economic cooperation and significantly contribute to Polish economy with know-how transfers and by creating new job opportunities. For Poland, Korea is the second most important economic partner in Asia. For Korea, Poland is the biggest trade partner in Central-east Europe. Import from Korea has been maintained on a stable level above 3.6 billion USD in the past three years. Polish export to Korea has been increasing since EU - Korea FTA came into force in 2011. I believe that these trends will continue. Currently, trade exchange involves especially mechanical and electrical equipment as well as articles of base metal, and for the foreseeable future this will remain our main field of cooperation. In the future, aging Korean society together with increasing demand for high-quality products could create an opportunity for Polish exports, especially luxury cosmetics and pharmaceutical products as well as food.
Q: Unfortunately, North Korea carried out a hydrogen bomb test this morning. Please briefly advise us as to what would be the best response of the Republic of Korea (south) to this newly developing situation?
A: Polish authorities expressed a deep concern after receiving information about the DPRK thermonuclear test. We believe that such actions pose a threat to the security and stability in the region as well as the international system of non-proliferation and arms control. Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued already a statement calling on the DPRK to stop them and constructively engage in dialogue with the international community, especially in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the six party talks partners. Let me also stress that Poland has been involved in the stabilization process on the Korean Peninsula since 1953 by participating in the Neutral Nations’ Supervisory Commission and we stand ready to support efforts for reconciliation of the Korean people and for building lasting security and stability in the region.
Q: What, if any, are Your Excellency's suggestions for the Korean businesses to increase the volume of their trade and economic cooperation with Poland?
A: Korean business is doing very well in Poland, and for many years Korea has been in the lead among countries with which Poland produces the largest trade deficit. The Republic of Korea is third (after China and Russia) in the negative trade balance list for Poland. Korean investments in Poland have become a vital element of Polish-Korean economic co-operation and are incredibly important for the Polish economy, mainly because of their advanced technology. Nevertheless, my suggestion for Korean business would be to make an effort and try to collaborate with local partners and gather together in consortia instead of operating independently. Such a solution will increase chances in bidding process or in obtaining additional funds from other sources, such as EU projects. It will also boost polish domestic economy by providing job opportunities and relevant experience for Polish counterparts.
Q: In some instances, small and medium companies of Korea are very active in the promotion of bilateral trade and economic cooperation--vis-a-vis Jaebeol companies. What is the situation between Korea and Poland?
A: Typically, as in other countries Jaebeols are the driven factors that contribute the most for Polish-Korea relations. Among the four biggest Korean conglomerates, currently three invest in Poland: LG, Samsung and SK Chemicals. LG and Samsung manufacture electronic goods and home appliances, while SK Chemicals produces chemical and plastic materials. Korean SMEs are also present on the Polish Market ? they play a significant role of serving as a middle man in providing services between conglomerates and Polish consumers. On the other side, Korean SMEs in Korea are involved in import of Polish goods and in distribution chains of Polish products on the Korean market.
Q: Please advise us of any other details that we might have left out from our questionnaire intended for increased cooperation and exchange between the two countries.
A: Despite geographical distance and different cultural backgrounds, the cooperation between Poland and Korea is flourishing in many areas. When it comes to art and culture there are many programs that aim at introducing each other’s cultural heritage and exchanging ideas. Last summer an exhibition of “Polish Art: Enduring Spirit” at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul was visited by over 100 thousand people. It was a great opportunity to introduce Polish art and culture to the Korean public. The Asia Pacific International Chopin Piano Competition in Daegu is another example of the growing cooperation and interest between our nations. I believe the cultural exchange between Poland and Korea is only going to grow and expand. The Department of Polish Studies at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) is the largest center for Polish studies in Asia, and many of their initiatives help build stronger relations and future possibilities. Despite being geographically distant, our nations are connected by many economic and cultural inter-exchanges which are built on solid foundations and are expected to develop even further.