H.E. Ambassador So Chang Sik
Ambassador So Chang Sik of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to Kuwait was emphatic in stating that under the wise leadership of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the cordial and brotherly relations between Korea and Kuwait would in the coming years continue to develop in all domains.
After officially presenting his diplomatic credentials to His Highness the Amir on 15 January, 2013, Ambassador Sik has endeavored to strengthen relations between North Korea and the GCC region. “Before arriving in Kuwait, I was my country’s ambassador to Italy; now, in addition to Kuwait, I am also Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said the diplomat in a recent meeting with The Times.
Continuing about the firm bonds that bind North Korea and Kuwait, the ambassador noted, “On presenting my letter of credence to His Highness, the Amir expressed his great expectations of enhancing bilateral relations and his hopes that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries would grow stronger in all spheres.” The envoy went on to add, “The long and friendly ties between our two countries were first cemented with the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2001. Relations became further entrenched with the opening of our embassy here, and the subsequent opening of a department to handle North Korean affairs at Kuwait’s mission in China.”
Political relations between DPRK and Kuwait
Political relations between DPRK and Kuwait are based on promoting peace and stability in their respective regions and around the world. Since launching diplomatic relations, the two nations have worked progressively to improve ties on all fronts, including on the political, cultural, social and economic levels, said the diplomat, adding, “I am pleased that ongoing bilateral relations are steadily developing in different arenas and the visits by high-level ministerial delegations will lead to further boosting ties between our nations. In September or October we are expecting a visit by a delegation headed by the Deputy Foreign Minister of DPRK. This will be followed by another delegation led by the country’s Deputy Minister for Public Health. These visits provide opportunities for both countries to discuss various issues of mutual concern and explore prospects of supplementing and enhancing bilateral relations in all fields.”
Saying that Kuwait contributed significantly to the development of his country, the envoy added, “The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has been active in DPRK providing loans for several infrastructure projects in water supply, sanitation and roads running millions of dollars.” In 2005, the Fund financed the rehabilitation of three water treatment plants in Pyongyang City, through repairs and replacement of pumps and pipelines, as well as the rehabilitation of Onha Canal and Botong River. Three years later, the Fund provided financing for the development and expansion of sewage pumping stations in the Capital. Last year, the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection entered into a contract with the Fund to provide for the construction of a new two-lane highway from Pyongyang to Pyongsong.
Clarifying that the DPRK is also involved in the development of Kuwait, the diplomat added, “More than 4,000 engineers, specialists and technicians are involved in several construction projects around the country. For instance, we have specialized architectural artists engaged in constructing model sets at the Kuwait House for National Works Museum. The displays at the museum depict the history of Kuwait, as well as the atrocities committed during the invasion of Kuwait and the effects of the aftermath of Gulf War. Our specialists and technicians are also involved in projects at the Kuwait Zoo and with the Public Authority for Agriculture and Fish Resources.”
The economic cooperation between Kuwait and DPRK
“The economic cooperation between our two countries is mutually beneficial and generates significant synergies and greatly contributes to the co-prosperity of the two friendly nations. In general, we are very satisfied with ongoing relations and look forward to taking these friendly ties to even higher levels,” said the envoy, before adding, “On the economic and commercial sides we are examining and exploring the possibilities of further boosting bilateral relations; I am pleased that the Kuwait Fund has evinced interest in several projects in my country. In fact, the potential for increasing investments and business ties between DPRK and Kuwait are immense and there are so many opportunities all over the country.”
The ambassador went on to point out, “Some detractors might say there are many challenges to doing business with DPRK, but this is not true. Since assuming leadership, the wise Supreme Leader has made economic development a priority for the government. Special economic zones in various parts of the country such as the Rason Economic Special Zone and the Kaesong Industrial Region provide facilities, infrastructure and favorable conditions for foreign business developments, as well as the necessary legal frameworks, regulations and conventions for investment protection.”
“Tourism is another area of the economy that is seeing significant investments with several large resorts being planned and implemented across the DPRK. The government has given tourism promotion great precedence with the aim of bringing in over one million visitors to the country in the immediate future,” said the ambassador. He added, “While there are tourists from Kuwait visiting DPRK, the numbers could be increased considerably by creating awareness of the tourism potential of our country. Visa and travel formalities are relatively simple and could be completed at the embassy, and Air Koryo, the national airline, offers direct flights from Kuwait to Pyongyang several times a month.”
The government of DPRK is aiming to promote tourism in a big way and in this regard several mega tourism projects are being implemented in different parts of the country, including a large world class ski resort of hundreds of thousands of square meters in Masik Hill in Wonsan of Kangwon Province.
Besides the ski resort, with its facilities for skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, the government is looking to promote mountaineering and several scenic sites in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, as well as game fishing and other water-related sports along the coastal areas. The Complex of Goguryeo Tombs with their wall paintings from more than 2,000 years ago, that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 is another site that attracts hundreds of tourists.
Foreign policy: On the diplomatic front, the DPRK has historically displayed flexibility in its approach to foreign policy, while consistently seeking to preserve its political system and diplomatic autonomy. Since declaring 1972 as the ‘Year of Diplomacy’ the country has established representation in over 160 countries and with the European Union. Efficient and pragmatic geopolitical strategies by the Supreme Leader and the government of DPRK have led to the country being recognized as a power to be reckoned with on the international arena.
This year, on 27 July, DPRK celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Korea Fatherland Liberation War at the Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. The May Day Stadium, which can accommodate over 150,000 people, has the largest stadium capacity in the world and the ‘Arirang’ Mass Games, which were displayed on the occasion, are the largest mass dance in the world. ‘Arirang’ features over 30,000 school children forming mosaic patterns with colored cards and choreographed group routines by tens of thousands of specially trained gymnasts. Child welfare and education are also given very high importance in DPRK. Education is free of charge and compulsory until the secondary level, and the country has one of the most literate population in the world, with an average literacy rate of 99 percent.
“On the occasion of 60th anniversary celebrations, our Supreme Leader joined political leaders and other government dignitaries of DPRK in witnessing the festivities. The glorious events unfolded on the day also included a large military parade by the brave soldiers of DPRK and a display of advanced and sophisticated weaponry and armaments. The mass drill displayed to the world the capabilities of the invincible Korean People’s Army, and international news agencies and other media attending the celebrations witnessed the strong loyalty of the people and army to the Supreme Leader, the Party and the Fatherland,” said Ambassador Sik in conclusion.