"Korea-Vietnam Friendship Association (KOVIFA) is a private organization established in 2002 that seeks international friendship and co-prosperity between the two countries at the private level," said Choi Young-joo, chairman of the association.
Choi, the third chairman of KOVIFA, said in a recent interview with The Korea Post media, "In terms of political system, Korea has a democratic system and Vietnam adopts a socialist system. Because of the different systems, there is no right contact route at the private level between the two countries. However, KOVIFA has been playing such a role faithfully.”
"KOVIFA is composed of former Korean ambassadors to Vietnam and businessmen, but the Vietnam-Korea Friendship Association consists of incumbent lawmakers and the minister-level chairman of the Chamber of Commerce," said Choi, who also serves as chairman & CEO of PANKO Corp., a global apparel manufacturer operating factories in Vietnam.
The following is a summary of the interview with Choi, chairman of the Korea Vietnam Friendship Association, as part of a special event to commemorate the 46th anniversary of Vietnam's reunification day on April 30, 2021.
Question: Tell me about the purpose of establishing the KOVIFA and its activities.
Answer: KOVIFA is a private organization established with the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. KOVIFA was established to promote mutual understanding and friendship between Korea and Vietnam, promote joint cooperation and achieve joint prosperity, expand bilateral or multilateral cultural exchanges, and create a harmonious world order.
Q: Please introduce the KOVIFA's business plan for this year.
A: It's hard to get people together because of COVID-19 pandemic, so it's hard to do a friendly business project this year. Previously, there were about 65,000 Vietnamese brides living in Korea, and various events were held in Sejong-ro, Seoul with the Vietnamese ambassador to Korea jointly attending with heads of local governments.
But we're barely getting together this year. I and my company staff also have to go on a business trip abroad, but we can't.
Fortunately, Vietnam is one of the world's best countries in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, so I think active exchanges between Korea and Vietnam will resume as soon as possible.
Q: Please introduce yourself, including the profile.
A: I'm managing PANKO Corp. and we started our business on December 1, 1984. It has been in operation for 37 years. Currently, I serve as the chairman of PANKO Vina Corp., PANKO Tam Thang Co., and PANKO E&D Co. I also established a local corporation in Myanmar and serve as chairman.
Q: You are KOVIFA chairman and concurrently serve as the chairman PANKO Corp. Please introduce the company and briefly introduce your management philosophy.
A: PANKO is a global apparel manufacturer with state-of-the-art vertical systems (weaving, dyeing and sewing processes) in two Asian countries (Vietnam, Myanmar), five local subsidiaries and a total of seven production bases.
My philosophy of management is “Kyeongcheonaein (敬天愛人),” which means that we should respect the heavens and love people.
We are making strenuous efforts to help employees focus on their work in a comfortable environment. At the same time, in order to grow together with our suppliers, we are actively participating in win-win activities, adhering to the cash payment principle, not bills, for subcontractors.
Q: Please introduce the key figures and activities of the chairmen and members of the KOVIFA.
A: My term as the KOVIFA chairman is three years, but I have been serving the post for 12 years as the third chairman. The first KOVIFA chairman was the late Kim Young-kwan, who served as Navy Chief of Staff, and the second chairman was the late Park Noh-soo, who served as the first Korean ambassador to Vietnam.
Kim Dong-nyung, chairman of Hansae Yes24 Holdings Co., is the senior vice chairman of the KOVIFA. And the group of KOVIFA vice chairmen consists of 11 former diplomats, professors, and businessmen.
The KOVIFA has been officially registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When high-ranking Vietnamese officials visit Korea, KOVIFA hosts private events and meetings for them. As Korea and Vietnam experienced a war in the past, we are paying special attention to Vietnamese government officials and businessmen.
Q: Please introduce awards and plaques you or KOVIFA received from the Vietnamese government and related agencies.
A: We received many awards at the private level in recognition of our efforts to promote friendship between Vietnam and Korea. Among them, however, the Merit for Promoting Friendship between Korea and Vietnam and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Order of Friendship remain in my memory.
I also met with the then Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Dec. 27, 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Vietnam. At the meeting, various opinions were exchanged to revitalize the Vietnamese economy and investment sector.