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[Herald Interview] Latvia hopes to boost economic, cultural ties with Korea

Nov. 20, 2023 - 22:09 By Sanjay Kumar
Latvian Ambassador to Korea Aris Vigants delivers remarks at Latvia's 105th anniversary of independence at Grand Hyatt Seoul in Yongsan-gu, Seoul on Friday. (Latvian Embassy in Seoul)

Latvia hopes to boost trade, investment and cultural relations with Korea, said the country's top envoy to Korea on Friday, as Latvia marks its 105th anniversary of independence.

Latvian Ambassador to Seoul Aris Vigants said there was potential for increased cooperation on many fronts, with trade volume between Korea and Latvia reaching 128.3 million euros ($140 million) last year. Latvian exports to the country amounted to 72.7 million euros and imports were worth 55.5 million euros in 2022.

"We have enormous potential in boosting our relations in economics, trade and investments," said Vigants, underscoring Latvia and Korea’s shared values, commitment to democracy, freedom, the rule of law, respect for human rights and a rules-based international order.

Latvia and Korea established diplomatic relations on Oct. 22, 1991. The country, as an EU and NATO member state, actively collaborates with other member states on common foreign and security policy goals, such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and benefits from the free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea.

Korea aspires to serve as a global pivotal state and establish a new chapter of mutually beneficial cooperation with Latvia. Both countries are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and share ambitious goals.

Members of the Diplomatic Corps pose for a group photo during the celebration of Latvia's 105th anniversary of Independence Day at Grand Hyatt Seoul in Yongsan-gu, Seoul on Friday. (Latvian Embassy in Seoul)

Vigants said there is substantial room for growth in the software sector, where Latvian software has already made an impact in Korea with light drone shows. He added that he hoped the proposed EU-Korea digital trade agreement would help spur expansion of business relationships between the two countries.

Last month, European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis announced that the European Union and Korea have agreed to launch negotiations on a digital trade agreement.

The agreement aims to complement the current preferential trade frameworks to ensure adaptability to the dynamic nature of the digital era.

Vigants also pointed out that it hopes to follow in the footsteps of Korea, which was elected to the United Nations Security Council in June. Latvia has been campaigning for a nonpermanent seat in the UNSC for the 2026–2027 term, and Vigants sees potential collaboration with Korea on common concerns.

Latvian Ambassador to Korea Aris Vigants(third from left) poses for a photo with artists during the Latvia Days in Korea event. (Latvian Embassy in Seoul)

Another collaboration front that could be considered is Europe's Horizon Europe project, a 95.5 billion euro funding program for research and innovation projects. Korea is in talks to become an associate member, which would grant Korea funding opportunities under the program, he said.

He noted in particular the smart energy and semiconductor sectors, where innovative solutions would be key, that the two countries could seek cooperative opportunities in.

He also highlighted "Latvia Days in Korea," an event organized by Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and the Latvian Embassy to showcase Latvia's cultural and gastronomic accomplishments, among others.

Latvian Ambassador to Korea Aris Vigants speaks during the Latvia Days in Korea event. (Latvian Embassy in Seoul)

The event, held from Oct. 25-29 in Seoul, attracted over 30,000 attendees and reached more than 2 million people through local media and social networks, according to LIAA.

The ambassador also outlined plans for educational initiatives, including a Latvian language speech contest in Korea and a collaboration with the Baltic Research Center at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Separately, he said Latvia is also working to foster more cultural and educational exchanges between the two countries, and that he hopes for the establishment of direct flight connections between Latvia and Korea.