By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Kevin Lee
Ambassador Alfredo Bascou of the Argentine Republic in Seoul said, “There are many sectors and projects in Argentina that may be of interest for Korean companies.”
Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post media (publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean news publications since 1985, Ambassador Bascou then added, “Above all, Argentina has ideal conditions for the development of renewable energies.”
Ambassador Bascou also stated that on a larger scale Argentina implements the most ambitious infrastructure plan of transport section in the history of the country, fostering its growth and development.”
Details of the interview follow:
Question: Nowadays, economic cooperation between Korea and other countries of the world is considered to be of utmost importance. What is the present status of the two countries in this respect?
Answer: Argentina and the Republic of Korea are involved in the hydrogen economy and since last year are in close dialogue to foster their strategic cooperation. Since Argentina has the third largest lithium reserves on earth, Posco Group confirmed to build the commercial plant of lithium hydroxide for electric car batteries in northern Argentina, starting from the first half of 2022. In addition, the contribution and cooperation of Korea in the field of IT, bio-technology, water and sanitation, aerospace and satellite industry, and startups in Argentine industry would be very much welcomed.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: The bilateral trade between Korea and Argentina reached USD 2.215 M in 2021, an increase of 80.7% compared to the previous year. Argentina exported goods worth USD 1.824 M to Korea and imported goods worth USD 391 M from Korea with a trade surplus of USD 1.434 M for Argentina thanks to increased feed-grade corn and crude soy-bean oil exports.
Argentina offers roughly 200 items to Korean market and more than 90 percent of these consist of primary products.
Even though agriculture and mining products are the most promising exports of Argentina to Korea, as part of efforts to diversify export items, Argentina achieved export of bovine immunization of foot-and-mouth disease vaccine to Korea for the first time in 2016 and recently introduced oranges and beer.
Korea has been mainly exporting automobile parts, electronic product parts electrical machineries and synthetic resins to the Argentine market and last year significantly increased its elevator exports.
Regarding the outlook in the next 12 months, several forecasts predicted growth of around 3% for the Argentine economy during 2022. And even though our country is not export-oriented as yours, we are confident that our exports will grow significantly during the next 12 months. We hope that this situation generates a positive impact on our bilateral trade. The Embassy will work hard to achieve that goal.
Q: What are your competitive products and/over services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies of your country exporting your products to Korea?
A: Argentina exports premium beef and fresh fruits to the world, including China and Japan. Argentine authority has been going through the process for a long time to introduce these products to Korean market. Organic products, wine and petrochemicals are the most promising exports of Argentina. Special mention should be made for the bovine immunization of foot and mouth disease which was exported to Korea in 2016. Regarding the nuclear technology field, Argentina has a long nuclear tradition that began in the 1950´s. Thus, today our country is positioned at the forefront of Latin American nuclear technological development, exporting experimental reactors to Australia, Peru, Egypt and Algeria.
Argentina's tourism services will be the most attractive sector post-pandemic.
Q: Who are the Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation, the SMEs as well as the big companies?
A: Generally speaking Korean brands are well known in Argentina. Everybody knows Samsung, LG, Hyundai and KIA. There are eight sales corporate bodies in Argentina--other than Chaebeol like as Samsung, LG and Posco. There are LX Pantos and Cheil Worldwide, Hansung Enterprise who have been participating in fishery business since 1985. Recently Ceragem presented in health care business in Argentina.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including major achievements.
A: President Alberto Ángel Fernández (Buenos Aires, April 2, 1959) is an Argentine lawyer, professor and politician, president of the Argentine Nation since December 10, 2019. He graduated in law from the University of Buenos Aires. He has a vast political career but in his most recent history Mr. Fernández was appointed Chief of Staff during the presidency of Nestor Kirchner, remaining in office throughout that presidential term. As president of Argentina since 2019, his government was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
His policies gave more importance to the health and life of Argentinians over the economy while granted economic support to those most in need as well as to small merchants who suffered the most from the pandemic. Numerous emergency assistance plans for families, reduction and moratorium on taxes, and assistance for work and production were launched. In international matters, he gave priority to strengthening MERCOSUR and Latin American unity, as well as compliance with the Paris Agreement to face climate change. In bilateral relations the two countries negotiated a comprehensive partnership framework that allows broad areas for cooperation and both presidents held phone conversations to discuss the current global agenda including the pandemic.
Q: Your Excellency as the Ambassador of Argentina in Seoul perform the important role of a bridge between the two countries. And the government, business and various other circles in Korea wish to learn more about Your Excellency. Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: My name is Alfredo Carlos Bascou, I have been Ambassador to the Republic of Korea for three years now. I have a broad experience in trade and investments matters and a long working experience in several countries such as Algeria, Germany, Canada and People´s Republic of China. As Ambassador my role is to develop a rich and diverse bilateral agenda between Argentina and Korea in fields like politics, trade, cultural and consular affairs. In particular I am specialized in climate change and new energies; therefore, I am working hard to position Argentina as a world provider of lithium and hydrogen as alternatives to the fossil fuels. In addition, both countries share a broad agenda in cooperation in areas such as science and technology, mining and Antarctic research. I have dedicated all my life to these topics, in my personal life I am married with three adult children now. I am found of sports and reading about current global issues.
Q: Please introduce the latest developments in your esteemed country, including Korean culture and a local Korean community in Argentina.
A: The “Korean Wave” or “Hallyu” is steadily growing in Argentina. K-pop, K-drama, internationally recognized movies like Parasite and series as Squid Game are no longer viewed with the novelty of a few years ago.
Korean food is no longer a just a trend. For example, the "Hansik food festival" was held for the seventh time in Buenos Aires in 2021 with the participation of more than 30 restaurants specialized in Korean food. In addition, the Argentine Congress has declared the 22nd of November as “Kimchi Day”.
Also, the interest in learning the Korean language has also grew among Argentines. Roughly 90 percent of the students are fans of a K-pop band like BTS or Black Pink or a Korean series like Squid Game or Hellbound, which act as a gateway and want to know more about Korean culture.
Therefore, the "Korean wave" has a strong momentum in Argentina, despite the fact that the Korean immigration has traditionally remained relatively concentrated and isolated.
The Korean community in Argentina began to establish itself in the mid-1960s, reaching more than 35,000 by the end of the '80s. They have settled mainly in the Flores neighborhood of the City of Buenos Aires, although there are Korean communities in places as distant from the capital as Ushuaia.
Today, Korean-Argentines, in some cases with more than fifty years in the country, are part of Argentina in all its aspects, including culture, with artists like Kim Yun-shin and Ari Cho, film directors like Daniel Kim and Cecilia Kang and popular actors like Kim Chang-sung.
Q: This month, Korea and Argentina celebrate the 60th Anniversary of their Diplomatic Relations. How will it be celebrated? Could you tell us about some of the events that have been organized for the general public to participate in the celebrations?
A: On the one hand, to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations, our Embassy is preparing three important cultural events involving cinema, plastic arts and Argentine music:
-In mid-June an Argentine Film Week will be held for the first time in Seoul in coordination with the Association of Argentine Film Directors and the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), one of the most important film institutions in the Republic of Korea, which is currently at the forefront of the industry.
-We are organizing an exhibition of an artist whose work shows the ties between the countries, the Korean sculptor and painter based in Argentina, KIM Yun Shin. The exhibition will be held in the exhibition hall of the Yongsan Municipality in the second half of the year.
- A music concert will be held that will unite the musical and dance expressions of both countries. A Korean-based Argentine tango quartet and tango dancers will perform along with local musicians playing traditional Korean instruments. The concert will be also held at the Yongsan City Hall in Seoul, in conjunction with the art exhibition.
- We are also planning a Golf Tournament in Seoul in August.
On the other hand, our Embassy will participate in two activities carried out in conjunction with the Korea Foundation and the other 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries that celebrate 60 years of Diplomatic Relations with the Republic of Korea in 2022:
- An Argentine film will be presented at the KF World Cinema Week - Journey to Central and South America (tentative title).
- Our Embassy will take part in the KF Public Diplomacy Week which will be held in October-November at Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Finally, we are planning to do a Seminar on Investment and Trade in the city of Busan.
Q: Recently the Embassy of Argentina opened the Mafalda Cultural Space to showcase the country's rich culture to Koreans. Could you tell us a bit about this space and why the space is named Mafalda?
A: The intensity of Korean cultural life motivated us to inaugurate a Cultural space at the Embassy, from where we will continue with the initiatives interrupted by the pandemic, such as the Tango School and the Argentine Film Series.
In addition to those activities, during 2022 different seminars will be held that will cover different aspects of Argentine culture, such as gastronomy, art, music, history, among others, taught in Korean by professors and professionals who are part of the Argentine Society in Korea.
Regarding its name, for Argentines Mafalda is an icon of our culture. That is the name of a cartoon created in 1964, whose main character is a very curious girl which became a symbol of Argentine customs and personality. It was translated into more than 30 languages, including Korean. Naming our Cultural Center "Mafalda" is both a tribute to its creator, Joaquín Salvador Lavado, "Quino", and a personal pleasure for us.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: Argentina is a large and diverse country considering its landscapes, weather and tourist attractions. There are countless places to visit and infinite things to do while visiting Argentina. It doesn't matter how old are you or what are your passions. We have a long tradition of welcoming visitors from all over the world, and I am confident that anyone who has the opportunity to visit Argentina will love it.
Starting from our Capital, Buenos Aires, you can explore a city of immigrant blood and passionate rhythm. Visit a place of friendship and emotions, tradition and modern life, culture and sophistication. A metropolis filled with life, myths and stories that are shared and entwined.
A city where people sit at cafes to talk for hours, where soccer is lived as nowhere else in the world and where nightlife offers a wide variety of shows. You can also feel the passion of tango where it was born. Visit tango places with live orchestras and dancers. Theatre plays and music. Bars and bar counters. Beer places and discotheques. Pizza and fainá. Alfajores and churros. Restaurants and parrillas. Argentine beef and international menus. Empanadas and dulce de leche ice-cream. Fashion stores and green areas. Modern clothing and author’s designs. Craft and antique fairs.
After experiencing the excitement of Buenos Aires, you can visit the region called "Litoral", formed by the provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Chaco, Formosa, Misiones and Santa Fe. Take a walk around the rainforest, stroll along with red earth and get a close look at one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Iguazú Falls. Tour the Jesuit-Guarani reductions declared a Cultural Heritage site. Enjoy the Esteros del Iberá and El Impenetrable National Park, a world ecotourism landmark.
Explore rivers and estuaries, thermal waters and beaches, canyons and jungles where plenty of wildlife species live. Rest on beaches and sail along the Paraná and Uruguay rivers. Discover Bañado, La Estrella and El Palmar National Park. Experience the surprise of the Gualeguaychú Carnival and rural tourism in ranches. Visit Jaaukanigás, the largest Ramsar site nationwide. Enjoy photo safaris, kayak tours, bird watching and catch-and-release fishing.
From Litoral, you can continue your trip heading to Cuyo, at the foot of the Andes mountains, and discover the region formed by the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis. Do you like mountaineering, climbing or trekking? Explore the Tupungato, Mercedario and Cordón del Plata mountains. Are you in for stronger sensations? Dare climb the highest mountain in the Americas: the Aconcagua. Do you prefer skiing and winter sports? Thrust yourself down the best snow trails of the region.
Tour the mythical Wine Route. More than a thousand wineries are waiting for you to taste exquisite wines, take part in a harvest, tour grapevines and theme museums. Would you like to relive history? Cross the Andes on horseback along the same road as General San Martín’s liberating expedition. Do you like natural areas? Explore the Ischigualasto Provincial Park and the Talampaya, Sierra de las Quijadas and El Leoncito National Parks.
And if that it's not enough for you, then I suggest you visit Patagonia: from the Pampean plains to Antarctica, and from the Andean mountains to the sea.
Discover the region made up by the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, La Pampa, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands. Explore places that are unique for adventure and for relaxing. Glaciers and lakes. Forests and villages. Dream-like valleys and steppe fields. Volcanos with geysers and thermal waters.
Discover places that have been declared World Heritage Sites: Los Glaciares National Park, the Cave of Hands [Cueva de las Manos], Los Alerces National Park and the Valdés Peninsula. Enjoy biodiversity and wildlife. Guanacos and deer. Seawolves and lions. Condors and penguins. Dolphins and the Southern right whale. Taste the local food: lamb and deer, goat and trout, chocolate and preserves, picaditas and smoked food items, wines and beers.
As you can see, you can get bored while visiting Argentina even if you try to.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate.
A: Beside de National holidays that remembers remarkable historic events of the history of Argentina, such as Independence Day there are many important dates that are festivities during the year.
Tango World Cup:
August is the month of tango in the city of Buenos Aires because the tango world championship is held, where 400 couples from all over the world come to participate in the most important event in the world for this type of dance. Throughout the city there are shows, concerts, contests, exhibitions, workshops and other activities during the two weeks that the World Cup lasts. One of the most important festivals that the city offers its citizens and the world.
Throughout Argentina carnivals are celebrated, although depending on the area the celebration is different. In the northwest the carnival that is celebrated is the Andean carnival. Coinciding with the summer rains, the Andean peoples take the water as a blessing and getting wet is like a baptism of faith for good harvests. Water games, dances, music and festivities make this carnival a celebration as popular as it is fun, and full of magic, color and tradition of the highlands.
On the coast, on the other hand, the festivities are with troupes that represent a particular theme. Glitter, glamorous costumes, and imposing floats characterize these very popular carnivals in Entre Ríos and Corrientes.
In Buenos Aires, carnival has a different spirit. The comparsas--generally associated with a soccer club--go through the neighborhoods with songs that combine joy with social denunciation, laughter with irony and color with dance. Their traditional clothing includes a frock coat, gloves, a top hat and a cane, and their traditional instrument is the bass drum with a cymbal.
Fiesta de la Vendimia ( Grape Harvest Festival):
It is a traditional and popular festival in Mendoza where, among other things, the work of growing and harvesting grapes that will produce the wine.
The Grape Harvest Festival has been celebrated since 1936, and has its origins on the great immigrations when, at the end of the season of harvesting and making the wine, they celebrated and thanked the benefits of nature through dances, songs and the election of a “queen” who ended up being crowned with bunches of grapes.
In Mendoza this festival has become the flagship tourist-cultural product of the province, the main producer of wine in Argentina with 70% of the country's vineyards and wineries.
The Grape Harvest Festival, a combination of music and dance, which each year recreates a renewed story about the harvest, our land and our people, is a unique show in the world. Both tourists and locals are dazzled every year by the magnificence of the stage, the light boxes, the dances, the costumes, the music, the fireworks and the election of the queen.
The celebrations for the Day of Tradition (November 10) are held throughout the country, in each town and in each city. The date is due to the fact that José Hernández, author of the book Martín Fierro, an icon of gaucho culture, was born on that day, and it is the excuse to pay homage to rural customs. Representatives of different traditional groups walk the streets dressed as gauchos and riding horses, along with music and dance shows. One of the oldest and most traditional celebrations is that of San Antonio de Areco (Buenos Aires).
National Folk Festival:
This festival lasts a whole week and is one of the most popular in the country. It takes place in the city of Cosquín (Córdoba), in the Punilla Valley. During seven nights of the month of January, different musicians and dancers still unknown compete in each of the categories so that later each one of "the moons" (as they call each night) closes with a show by an already consecrated artist.
During those days and around the official festival, in all the bars peñas are organized in which people dance and sing until dawn, always in the company of empanadas and red wine.