Three years in Jordan

 

Three years in Jordan

* by Shin Hyun-suk

My three years as Korean ambassador to Jordan are coming to a close. So on the eve of my departure, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of our mutual achievements and experiences. It has been a great privilege and I feel a tremendous sadness to be leaving this wonderful country and its people.

As an ambassador to Jordan, I had the unique opportunity of observing historic events unfolding in the Arab world. It is very impressive that Jordan, despite numerous financial and social challenges, is forging ahead, on a path to political and other wide ranging reforms.

Jordan continues to serve as a hub of security in this turbulent region. The generosity of this country in opening its border to receive and care for the increasing number of Syrian refugees has been appreciated and valued by the international community. Jordan’s continuing efforts to encourage the Middle East peace process and the world interfaith movement initiative are laudable.

Korea and Jordan celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2012. In October 2010, Jordan's first resident ambassador opened the Jordanian Embassy in Seoul.

His Majesty King Abdullah paid a 4th visit to Korea in March 2012, to attend the Nuclear Security Summit which was held in Seoul. On that occasion, the leaders of the two countries agreed to further promote relations in many areas of mutual benefit, based on the fifty years of excellent ties they have shared. It was also agreed to establish a regular joint committee and to embark on joint projects in this region.

Our bilateral trade volume for 2012 was $ 1.5 billion, which is an approximate 40% increase in three years, evidence of Jordanian’s increasing preference for Korean cars, mobile phones, TVs, computers and air conditioners, a trend that is gaining more popularity every year.

Korean companies are actively participating in Jordan’s vital infrastructure projects – the nuclear research reactor and the south Amman wastewater treatment projects, both partially funded by Korean government’s soft loans.

A Korean built modern gas/diesel power plant at Al Qatrana is in full operation and another power plant is being built at Al Manaqer. These two power plants will produce 946 megawatts of electricity, amounting to about 25 per cent of Jordan’s total demands.

Many Korean companies are showing a great interest in participating in oil and oil shale explorations and renewable energy projects.

On the development-cooperation side, I had the honour of opening the blood bank in Irbid, in November 2011, and the Water Quality Monitoring Center in Amman, in December 2012, both of which established with the aid of Korean grants and technical expertise.

King Abdullah recently stressed the importance of attracting foreign direct investment for Jordan’s ongoing development. One of the secrets of Korea’s phenomenal economic development was the smart strategy of attracting foreign direct investment. In this regard, KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) last year produced a valuable recommendations report on FDI policy in Jordan, “Refining the strategic approaches to investment promotion in Jordan.”

This report was based on lessons of the Korean experience.

KOICA is also supporting many other projects, such as vocational training centers, local clinics and invitational training of Jordanian government officials in Korea. About 20 KOICA volunteers are teaching various vocational skills and are caring for disabled children in many institutes around the country.

In recent years, Korean culture became much more visible and popular abroad. “Nanta,” the world famous Korean non-verbal comic show and a Korean traditional music and dance show were brought with great success to Amman to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. Korea’s martial art taekwondo demonstrations in 2010 and 2013 also attracted thousands of Jordanian fans. Several sports events such as the Korean Cup Golf Tournament, Samsung Amman Marathon and LG Taekwondo Championship are contributing to our widening involvement in sports activities here.

Two Korean TV drama series, “Jewel in the Palace” and “Merchant”, broadcast through the JRTV in 2011 and 2012 respectively, were widely acclaimed by numerous Jordanian viewers around the country.

I am happy to note that the Korean language department of the University of Jordan is attracting more and more students every year. It was my great pleasure to have had the opportunity to give a series of lectures to the students during the autumn semester of 2012.

Jordan is now hosting several hundred Korean students who study Arabic language, literature and culture and the number of Korean students at the King’s Academy has increased from five just three years ago to 23 for the current academic year.

Jordan is becoming Koreans’ favorite tourist destination. In January this year, a group of 200 Korean Christian pilgrims visited Jordan. In April, the Jordan Tourism Board invited nine Korean reporters to visit and promote Jordanian tourist attractions and Christian holy sites in Korea. This friendly gesture will surely contribute to attracting more Korean tourists in the coming years.

When Reverend Billy Kim, the renowned Korean Christian pastor, and several Korean pilgrims visited the Zaatari Refugee Camp in January 2013, they realised that they might be able to assist with the Syrian refugees. They started a fund raising campaign on their return to Korea through the Far Eastern Broadcasting Company. The initial campaign resulted in getting 400 caravans and five containers of clothes, blankets, and consumer goods to the Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp. A Korean company, “SK Group”, followed with a donation of 1,000 caravans. The Korean government joined in the campaign with a donation of 300 caravans. Korean businessmen in Amman also raised funds to donate consumer goods to the refugees.

The Korean people and government are currently supporting the “football school” project in the Zaatari Refugee Camp. Several football grounds are being made in various places and volunteer coaches will be invited to teach football to many children in the camp.

I have to mention one more pleasant and worthwhile event which is the “I love Jordan” campaign, organized jointly by the Jordanian Korean Friendship Association and the Korean Community. On April 13, more than 100 Jordanians and Koreans including HRH Prince Mired Bin Raad, Dr. Yassin Khayyat, former minister of environment and myself gathered near Mt. Nebo and had a cleanup campaign. It was a symbolic awareness event aimed at more widespread cleanup campaigns. By joining in this campaign, both communities became much closer with the shared objective of returning Jordan to its natural beautiful state.

Korea and Jordan will continue to remain close partners and friends in the coming years and decades, as they have done so for the past half century. I will serve as self-appointed honorary ambassador of Jordan with the greatest of pride and pleasure.

I wish my beloved Jordanian friends and citizens the best of luck always in all their endeavours for their country and region.

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“Even the highest mountain on earth lies under the sun. If you try again and again you can reach the top. However, most people just give up trying and say it is too high.” Yang Sa-eon (16th century poet).