Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

14 January 2013

Rwanda: South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Visits Rwanda

President Paul Kagame on Monday received Kim Sung Hwan, the Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister of South Korea, who was in the country to discuss about how to enhance bilateral relations in trade and security issues with Rwanda's top leaders.

The discussions mainly focused on bilateral and multilateral issues including the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations, investment cooperation, grant aid with the establishment of the country partnership strategy (CPS) reflecting Rwanda's development priorities, international issues (Cooperation at the UN -UNSC) and regional issues (on both sides) concerning both the crisis in Eastern DRC, the current situation in the Central African Republic and the Korean peninsula (missile launch by North Korea, the North Korean nuclear issue, and relations between South and North Korea).

Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that Rwanda and the Republic of Korean are in a good relationship, highlighting President Kagame's recent visit to Bursan to discuss aid effectiveness last year as a signal of a special relationship between the two countries.

"The two countries are in a good business partnership and friendship relationship," Mushikiwabo said. She further commended the fact that South Korea has opened a fully operational embassy in the country: "That is signal of closeness in terms of bilateral relationship between our two countries."

Mushikiwabo further stressed that Rwanda has been borrowing a leaf from South Korea's experience in terms of similar ways of resilience in very turbulent global times. "This is a better basis for us to work together," she said, pointing out that both countries have been recently elected non-permanent members in the UN Security Council. "We are in good company at the UN and that's an added element to our collaboration."

The South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Sung Hwan, said that both countries are willing to expand their cooperation. "We see Rwanda as one of our priority partner country."

He stressed that the bilateral cooperation has been based on ICT through companies like Samsung and Korean Telecommunication Company which are already operating in the country. Kim added that Korean will continue to provide its support through KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) which so far employs 110 Korean volunteers countrywide. KOICA mainly deals with providing vocational trainings, ICT skills, computer skills, science and Cuisine related skills. "All these are activities supposed to make the Rwandan society more exposed to the world," the Minister said.

He stressed that both countries have similar experiences and ways towards being successful states. "South Korea developed from an experience of war as Rwanda is doing from a past characterized by wars and the Genocide," Kim explained. "We continue to extend our cooperation with Rwanda particular in the areas of ICT, rural development and vocational training. And we heighten our presence in Rwanda by increasing our number of diplomats. We also agreed to immediately take into fact the protection of investment."

He added that there are more Korean companies willing to expand their activities in Rwanda, particularly in agriculture, ICT and entrepreneurship development.

He confirmed that the fact that both countries are currently member of the UN Security Council only strengthened the partnership. "As a member of UN Security Council, we consult each other on every issue," the Korean minister said. "My visit is also to understand what is going on here in Africa."

Rwanda's diplomatic bureau in Seoul was opened in November 2008 and upgraded to a fully-fledged embassy in February 2009 while Korea appointed its Head Mission at ambassadorial level in October 2012.

South Korea has funded several projects in Rwanda such as feasibility study of the "Water Recource Development in Nyabarongo River" completed in 2007, the Integrated Rural Development Project in Kibeho which is expected to be completed in 2015, Nyagatare Water Resource Development Project which started in 2012 and to be completed in 2015.

The ICT school for National University of Rwanda was also inaugurated in May 2011 while the Mobile Application Innovation Center will be completed in 2015 and the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC) campus at Kicukiro College of Technology inaugurated in 2011.

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