SEOUL, KOREA - This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Ethiopia. The ties started during the Korean War in 1951 when the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, sent 6,000 troops to fight as part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea. In December, 1963, the two countries established ties and have continued this positive relationship until today.
In 2011, Korea’s former president, Lee Myung-bak, visited Ethiopia to express his gratitude to the war veterans. Afterwards, the Korea’s government invited 300 children of the veterans to visit Korea and provided them with training for technical skills in the areas of wielding, automobiles, and electronics. 120 more individuals are expected to be invited for training this year and next.
On October 2011, the former professor at Seoul National University, Lee Jang-gyu, was appointed as a president of the Adama Science and Technology University in Ethiopia. The following year, Park Hong-lee, a former professor at Yonsei University joined the university as the dean of the School of Science. The department of Material Engineering was also newly established in collaboration with Pohang University of science and technology.
Lee succeeded in setting up a “R&D center”, aiming to develop it into Ethiopia’s version of Silicon Valley. Through these continuous efforts, the university was able to attract an investment of 6.2 million dollars from the Ethiopian government, and Lee has assumed the duties on drawing up Ethiopia’s long-term development plan to be reached by 2025.
Of late, Korean companies have increased their investment in the country. Samsung Electronics invested 1 million dollars in establishing an IT center in Bahar Dar, a city in north-western Ethiopia, to produce computers, printers, and refrigerators. This marks the first time that Samsung has set up an IT center in Africa. Last August, LG also invested 43 million dollars to set up a trial agricultural village on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. This project aims to offer vocational training for local people to help them stand on their own feet.
The deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia will visit Korea on June 16th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, and to celebrate the opening of a direct flight between the two countries. Passengers are now able to travel to Ethiopia directly from the Incheon airport. This direct flight is expected to reduce the time and cost required to commute between the two countries. According to the Embassy of Korea to Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Airlines flight will leave Addis Ababa on June 18th and arrive in the Incheon airport the following day.
On May 19th, the Korea Association of Ethiopian Studies was inaugurated in Seoul. Professors, government officials, and businessmen gathered with the aim of strengthening cooperation between the two countries. At the meeting, Huh Jong, a professor Emeritus at Kyung Hee University, was elected as chairman.
Huh said, “Ethiopia is a country that we are grateful for the assistance that they provided when we were experiencing a difficult situation. However, most Koreans do not have a strong understanding of this country as there is not a wide range of information available. Using the establishment of the Korean Association of Ethiopian Studies as momentum, I hope that more Koreans are able to become knowledgeable about the country and that we see more exchanges and sustainable outcomes for the economic benefits of both Ethiopia and Korea.”
Kim Hyoung Joong, a professor of Korea University and a member of the association, said that, “Currently, Ethiopia is showing signs of emerging as a land of opportunity. To date, several government agencies have been working together with the country to generate mutual benefits. However, Korea needs to send more experts to provide our experiences and technologies in order to enhance future cooperation. This would be a wise investment on the part of both countries.”
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