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Dialogue with visiting Hungarian vice foreign min.

Posted November. 10, 2000 14:35,   


Budapest pro-democracy demonstrations, the collapse of socialism in East Europe, Mozart, Franz von Liszt -- for most Koreans, the aforementioned topics come across their minds in association with Hungary.

From a country that is remote from Korea geographically and psychologically, Vice Foreign Minister Baba Ivan visited Seoul on Nov. 7. The Hungarian vice foreign minister, whose people put the surnames before the given names as here in Korea, met with National Assembly Speaker Lee Man-Sup and Vice Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon during his one-day stay in Seoul and left the following day.

This reporter met him at the Regent Hyatt Hotel, where he stayed Tuesday, and asked about the purpose of his Korean visit and other things.

What is the purpose of your visit here?

¡°For now, in Hungary, Samsung, Hanhwa, Daewoo and some other large-scale enterprises and a considerable number of small and medium-sized businesses are operating in Hungary. My main purpose is to induce more investments from Korea into my country.¡±

How is Korean investment beneficial to Hungary?

¡°Hungary has achieved economic reform successfully, so that the amount of the foreign investment there is the largest among East European nations. Now negotiations are underway for Hungary, a semi-member of the European Union, to become full member of the organization.

¡°The advance to Hungary means to build a bridgehead for advancing into the EU. We have joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Since the entry into NATO ensures stability and security, Korean businesses will be able to invest in Hungary without worries.¡±

When asked how he feels about Hungary`s coming under the influence of the U.S.-led NATO from the bondage with the old Soviet Union, he answered diplomatically that although NATO has been led by the United States, many European countries joined it, and his government entered the organization, as the Hungarian people support it, and this is compatible with the constitutional principles.

What is the reputation of Korean firms in Hungary?

¡°Consumers are well aware of such brands as Samsung, Hyundai. LG and some others. And the quality of their products is highly evaluated in general.¡±

To the question how he think about Korea`s corporate and financial restructuring program involving the liquidation of nonviable enterprises, he said briefly that he hops all pending problems could be resolved well. He noted that Hungary had experienced serious difficulties during the process of transformation from socialist to capitalist systems in the early 1990s.

Though the pains and characteristics of the present Korean plight are different from those that Hungary underwent, he expressed a hope that after overcoming the ordeal, Korea would be able to build a firmer economic framework for national development.

What is your comment on Hungary`s closure of its embassy in Pyongyang in October last year?

¡°That was not because of political reasons but economic reasons. During that period of the economic difficulty, Hungary closed some embassies in other countries whose relationships were not so close.¡±

Asked what his impression about Korea was during his visit, he quipped that all men and women are handsome. And to the question whether Hungarian women are more beautiful than Koreans, he said, for now Korean women are more beautiful, with a laugh.

The Hungarian minister graduated from Budapest Liberal Arts College, majoring in English, and studied political science in Geneva. Under communist rule, he engaged in anti-government activities, but he has been working with the Foreign Ministry since 1990.

Asked to comment on Korean news reporters, he replied as with a Koran-style request: ¡°You are the first newsman I met here in Korea. If you write the story in favor of me, the image of the Korean journalists will be good.¡±

Park Jei-Gyoon phark@donga.com