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“Czechia focuses on smart solutions, start-ups, promising technologies”

기사승인 2019.02.12  15:09:52

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- Interview with Ambassador Tomas Husak of Czech Republic in Seoul

The following are excerpts from an interview with Ambassador Tomas Husak of Czech Republic in Seoul.—Ed.

Question: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
Answer:
The Czech Republic is undergoing significant changes. As traditional manufacturing hub, we are well-known for our skills and high quality production. Though as the country develops, conditions change and more investments with high added value are attracted.
Our country focuses on developing and implementing of smart solutions, growing start-ups and supporting promising technologies. Currently we are being recognized for excellent research and hi-tech solutions. For example, Czech IT engineers are worldwide known. New initiatives and collaborations are creating Prague as a new artificial intelligence hub in Europe. It is very interesting that Prague itself has 5 times more AI graduates than Montreal in Canada. Google has acquired Czech team and created Google DeepMind in Edmonton. Therefore, global companies like IBM, MSD, Mavenir or H2O founded its research labs in our country. And this is just peak of iceberg. Korean companies make first attempts to take the advantage of our excellence as well.
Czech Republic goes beyond traditional industries and pushes limits of research in cyber security, photonics, lasers, drugs development, nanotechnology, software engineering, Industry 4.0 solutions and other segments. I am proud that Czech government agencies working hard to promote collaboration and opportunities in both countries and to spin off synergies and become more competitive in global scale. We need to work even harder to spread the awareness among entrepreneurs and lure attention. We shall utilize strengths of our economies to secure bright future.

Q: Who heads the bilateral economic cooperation organization on the Korean side between the two countries?
A:
The Czech Republic cooperates with many Korean economic organizations. For example Czech Embassy in Seoul has excellent relations, experiences and cooperation with KOIMA, KOTRA and Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul and Busan. Together we organize business forums, meetings with important business partners and Czech visitors from government sector and also participate on trade shows that organize these institutions. For example, we participate at Import Goods Fair organized by KOIMA and also Seoul Food prepared by KOTRA every year.

Q: What are the most important and other major policies of your country in the New Year?
A:
The Czech Republic is a small country in a global context and a medium-sized country on a European scale. With human resources and funding limited, the number of priorities, by territory and content, has to be identified carefully. These constraints also provide an incentive for active involvement in the European Union (EU), NATO, the UN, the OSCE and other multilateral structures. Czech foreign policy aspires to security, prosperity and sustainable development, human dignity, including the protection of human rights, serving the people, and nurturing a good reputation abroad.

Q: What are the major areas of cooperation between your country and Korea in the New Year?
A:
Our countries are politically likeminded and we have extensive exchange of official visits at all levels. At the end of the last year president Moon Jae-in visited Czech Republic and we are preparing visit of the Czech president to Korea this year.
Our countries do have very opened economies and are export oriented. That is why trade exchange is very high on our agenda. Our common trade exceeded 5 billion USD and is bigger then trade of Czech Republic with Japan. Korea is fourth biggest investor in the Czech Republic and Czech investors are starting to operate in Korea – logically starting with one of our best products, beer. There is Czech beer brewery under construction in Ulsan.
Both countries do have big potential in Research and Development and there are number of joint projects. We have to be ready for Industry 4.0 and for further expansion of our markets.
There are hundreds of students on students exchanges every year and there are number of our universities cooperating on joint projects. This is very important trend and we hope that this will even strengthen during this year.
We have wide cultural exchanges in the field of music, theatre, movies, exhibitions etc. etc. Czech Cultural Centre in Seoul will play very important role in increasing of this cooperation.
It is necessary to mention that more than 420.000 Korean tourists visited Czech Republic last year. We expect that this year number of Korean tourist to our country will exceed 500.000.

Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A:
As for the balance of our bilateral trade, it is in Korea’s favour. Although we do not know exact figures for the last year yet, we expect Czech exports to Korea was approximately 0.5 bill. USD, while our imports from Korea climbed to 4.5 billion. USD. A big part of the Czech imports are raw materials and semi-products for the Korean – owned manufacturing factories in the Czech Republic, which, when assembled, enter into Czech exports to third countries. Thus, as a first premise for our mutual trade, we see the growth on both sides, through which we believe to achieve a tendency to a more balanced trade in the future.
According to historical statistics of trade balance, we expect to see the 3-5 % growth rate in our bilateral trade this year as our economy is strong and sound together with the government support of Czech exports.

Q: What are your competitive products and services attractive to Korea and what are Korean products and services that your country might wish to import from Korea?
A:
It is interesting to see that in the Czech and Korean export portfolio have so many similar items and commodities, which are only different in details, execution, trademarks etc. It is well known that the most important Czech export items to Korea are not only its famous beer, but also measuring equipment, tool machinery, electrical equipment, foodstuff, sports equipment, glass products. Also, there still are significant interests on Czech crystal, and hand made products.
Other than the conventional popular Czech imports we are surprised with the new Czech items coming to Korea. Recently it was the export of Czech ice-cream, Czech skis and pizza production line, which will be delivered to Korea in the first quarter of this year. From October 2018, Koreans can officially import Czech Dairy products such as butters, milk related products and Ice-creams.
Korea exports to the Czech Republic measuring equipment, tool machinery, transport means and their components, electrical equipment and optical devices. Future trade and cooperation may be in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, ICT, energy and wood processing industry. Also, there is a good opportunity in the field of research and development, where a number of cooperation is already in process.

Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A:
Main tourist attraction is the nation's beautiful capital, Prague, which has nearly endless sightseeing opportunities and things to do. For most travelers, the focal point of a visit to the Czech Republic is Prague Castle. Over the course of its 1,000-year history, the castle - the largest in the world in terms of area - has undergone many dramatic changes in architectural style, evidence of which can be seen in the numerous buildings constructed within its walls through the centuries. Highlights include beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, the Powder Tower, and the Golden Lane with its medieval workshops. It's impossible to visit Prague without taking the time to traverse the city's most important river crossing, the spectacular Charles Bridge. This famous structure spanning the River Vltava was built in 1357 and has many unique points of interest along its 520-meter span, including numerous fine statues.
Cesky Krumlov is remarkably well preserved medieval city, dating from the 13th century. Much of what stands today in this UNESCO World Heritage Site stems from the 17th century, including the Rosenberg Ballroom and the Renaissance Hall, the Royal Apartments, and the Chapel of St. George. Also worth seeing is the castle's old Baroque theater, built in 1682, which is still used for special performances.
High above the old city of Brno is the beautiful Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, one of the Czech Republic's most important national monuments. The site of the cathedral first held an 11th-century Romanesque chapel that was later expanded to include a crypt and a basilica, the remains of which can still be seen. Also in Brno is the 13th-century Spilberk Castle, home to the Brno City Museum, as well as the fascinating UNESCO site Tugendhat Villa, built in 1930 and one of the most important examples of modern architecture from the early 20th century in Europe.
Often referred to by its old German name of Karlsbad, Karlovy Vary is a must-visit for anyone interested in an authentic spa experience. Established in 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe's elite, from royalty like Peter the Great to famous composers and writers including Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe. Evidence of the town's 13 main springs, not to mention its countless smaller springs, is everywhere. In addition to its many fine spa resorts, the lovely town of Karlovy Vary remains one of Europe's most prominent glassmaking centers, an industry that has thrived here for more than 150 years. A fascinating excursion is to the Moser Visitor Centre, part of the Moser glassworks, which was established in 1857.
Beauty of city of Olomouc can confidently rival not only that of Prague but also of many other popular tourist destinations in Europe, and it is certainly deserving of your attention. This is where you will find the second most important urban conservation area in the Czech Republic, which is surrounded by splendid parks, an incredible concentration of sacral buildings, a UNESCO monument. You can see all this and without the endless bustle of a big metropolis. You can bet that the relaxed pace at which you can enjoy the local wonders is offered by very few European cities.
There are number of other cities, towns, villages, castles, national parks, gardens and other opportunities, where you can enjoy beauty of the Czech Republic.

Q: Please introduce in detail your President (or Prime Minister) who heads the Executive Branch of your Government?
A:
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, H.E. Mr. Andrej Babis was born on 2nd September 1954 in Bratislava, Slovakia. He graduated from the University of Economics in Bratislava. In 1993, he founded Agrofert, currently the largest Czech agricultural, food and chemical holding, which he owned in 100%. In 2017Andrej Babis transferred all the assets of his firms to two trust funds.
In the autumn of 2011, Andrej Babis spoke in the media about system corruption that has grown through public administration. His speech attracted the response of thousands of citizens and gave a spontaneous rise to the initiative Action for Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO. Based on their requirements, a Call was compiled, summarizing the key ideas that lent content to the ANO association which was established subsequently in November 2011. As the number of supporters grew, voices were heard, recommending its direct involvement in politics. In May, it was registered as a political movement and Mr. A Babis later become its Chairman.
ANO finished second in the early election in 2013, with the highest number of votes for a new political entity in the history of the Czech Republic. It entered coalition government and Mr. A. Babis become Minister of Finance. The next, regular election to the House of Deputies in 2017 was won by ANO by landslide and Mr. A. Babis become Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 6th December, 2017.

Q: Please introduce yourself in detail to include your career, family and hobbies.
A:
After finishing my studies at Technical University I stared to work at Export Company. At the beginning of nineteen-eighties I worked at Commercial Section in Bangkok, where I spent eight years. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, when Communist Government fell, I joined state service at ministry of Foreign Trade, where I reached position of Director General. At that time I had responsibility for bilateral trade relations. I was transferred to Foreign Ministry in 1996 with the same position and similar responsibilities.
Later on in the year 1998 I become Ambassador to Sweden. After finishing my duty in Sweden I returned to my former position at Foreign Ministry in the year 2002. During next 4 years I was Member of the Governmental Council for Economic Policy, Member of the Governmental Council for Sustainable Development, Member of the Board of the Czech Export Bank and of the Czech Export Insurance Company, Member of the Board of several Bilateral Chambers of Commerce, Member of the Steering Committees of Czech Invest, Czech Trade and number of other organizations.
I was posted to United Nations Organizations in Geneva as Ambassador and Permanent Representative in the year 2006. During that time I served as Vice President of Human Rights Council and Chairman of number of Conferences in the fields of Intellectual Property, Labor and Disarmament. After my return in the year 2011 I assumed position of Senior Advisor of State Secretary.
In the year 2014 I was appointed as Ambassador to Republic of Korea. This is very demanding task, since Korea is very dynamic and vibrant country with many connections to the Czech Republic. I really enjoy my work with Korean partners. It is only a pity that I do not have more time to enjoy scenic beauty of Korea either from my bicycle or during skiing in beautiful winter resorts.

Czech Embassy in Seoul
Czech Embassy in Seoul is located at Gwangwhamun area and provides standard services for Korean and Czech citizens. Anyhow there are three Czech Governmental Organizations, which provide further services for Korean citizens.

Czech Centre Seoul
Czech Centers are a government agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, established to promote the Czech Republic abroad. The Czech Centers network consists of the Czech Centers Headquarters in Prague, 22 branches abroad, and the Czech Centre Prague. These centers interconnect presentations in the cultural arena and support of external economic relations and tourism. They provide informational services about the Czech Republic.
Although established in May 2013, the Czech Centre Seoul has already shown its potential through organization or co-organization of dozens of successful events, exhibitions, shows and concerts.
In the field of education the Czech Centre mostly cooperates with the Department of the Czech and Slovakian Studies at the Hanguk University of Foreign Studies. From the year 2013 they‘ve been working together on the project “Ceska kavarna (Czech cafe)“, which is intended for the students of Czech language, who have the opportunity to become familiar with Czech culture in an interactive form. Moreover the Centre holds presentations on various topics concerning the Czech Republic at the request of different Korean organizations and companies.
It is the collaboration with strong partners on Korean cultural scene, which has enabled the Czech Centre to achieve many successful cultural events during not even two years of its existence. In the upcoming year the Centre aims to develop the cooperation with existing partners, establish relation with new ones and bring many other meaningful cultural events enhancing cultural exchange between Czech Republic and the Republic of Korea.

CzechTourism office, Seoul
CzechTourism is Czech government agency, which task is to support Korean tourists travelling to the Czech Republic. Almost 420,000 Korean tourists visited Czech Republic in last year 2018 – compared with total figure of 180,000 Korean tourists from 2014. It means that number of Korean tourists more than doubled within last 4 years. Fueled by 8 direct flights between Prague and Incheon (operated by Korean Air and Czech Airlines), the closer collaboration of both countries and the work of Seoul office of Czech Tourism, next year result could overcome half million tourists.
Western Europe remains the first European choice for travelers. But Czech Republic and Prague – it is the most popular destination on Central Europe tour. Korean mostly see it as a country of fairy tales, preserved history and culture, economy style travelling.
Generally, the high season of Korea travel market is during Lunar’s new year holiday, Summer Holiday, Crusoe holiday. Since its opening CzechTourism Seoul office has organized number of press and fan trips – resulting in introducing 25 new package product including new program such as Mucha museum, Lobkowicz Palace, The national gallery , Pilsner Urquell Brewery and others… were introduced to Korean travel market.
We can see two clear trends happening. The group package travelling to Europe becomes accessible and popular for wider population in Korea with the increase of cheaper products. On the other hand the number of young travelers in 20s and 30s prefer to travel on their own and tend to choose more individual and developed program outside the stereotype packages.
Prague has been becoming a popular destination for honeymooners but the romantic positioning of Czech destinations helps to develop also other products – since the main targets are Korean family mothers in 50´s and young office workers and students from 20-30´s.

Czechinvest office in Seoul
Czechinvest started its operation in Seoul at the beginning of 2016. Since Czechinvest is governmental agency, the office is located at the Czech Embassy. CzechInvest is the exclusive organisation authorised to accept applications for investment incentives. Korea is currently the fourth most successful country in terms of receiving investment incentives in the Czech Republic. The agency’s main activities include provision of all necessary information to potential investors, consultancy pertaining to current Czech legislation and administration of certain instruments of support such as investment incentives and selected European Union structural funds. CzechInvest also provides investors with assistance in dealing with government authorities and helps them to engage with universities and research institutes.
CzechInvest’s contact with investors does not come to an end once investments have been implemented. Through its AfterCare services, the agency helps investors to create suitable conditions for their further development in the Czech Republic. These services have been used by, for example, Doosan Škoda Power, which invested in a research centre. All of CzechInvest’s services are provided free of charge.
Korean investors particularly value not only the Czech Republic’s longstanding industrial tradition and skilled workforce, but also the outstanding conditions that the country provides for Korean workers, as well as the growing awareness of Korea among the Czech people and the rising cultural affinity between the two countries.
Between 2005 the first quarter of 2015, CzechInvest helped to mediate 24 investment projects of Korean firms. One of the most significant of these was Hyundai Motor Company’s investment in Nošovice in 2006, which prompted the entry of a number of Korean suppliers, such as Sungwoo Hitech, Sejong and Hanwha that are now operating in proximity to the Hyundai plant in the Moravia-Silesia region.
Korean investors particularly value not only the Czech Republic’s longstanding industrial tradition and skilled workforce, but also the outstanding conditions that the country provides for Korean workers, as well as the growing awareness of Korea among the Czech people and the rising cultural affinity between the two countries.

Son Da-som edt@koeapost.com

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