The Kabul Times, correspondent has made an interview with the Korean Ambassador to Kabul, H.E Young-Cheol Cha, where many issues were discussed including the current political, economic and social situations in Afghanistan. The full transcript of the interview is as follow:
Mr. Ambassador, first of all we really thank and highly appreciate your visit to The Kabul Times, by permission of other respectable and honorable journalists here, I would like to start the interview.
Over the years, how do you evaluate the Afghan-Korea relationships & in which field does the Korea Republic mostly assisted Afghanistan?
The Ambassador: Thanks from your invitation and from the interview. This is my first time to the Kabul times and your office, and is great to visit here. Korea or ROK, Republic of Korea and Afghanistan, we have a very good friendly relation. At the beginning we established diplomatic relation long time ago, in the year 1973, but because of your internal problems and conflicts, our diplomatic relation has been broken up in 1978. And then for long time we left broken up.
In January, 2002 we re-established our diplomatic relationship with Afghanistan and then our embassy, itself reopened in September of 2002. And the first time Ambassador was Mr. Park Jong Soon to Afghanistan and I am the 7th Korean Ambassador since 2002. Your afghan embassy opened in January of 2004 in Seoul, Korean capital and since that there are very good relations with both countries.
Correspondent: Thank you so much for highlighting the relationship between the two countries. Korea Republic is one of those countries that has passed devastating war, does the Korea Republic share its experiences with Afghanistan? And how do you evaluate the democracy and media role in Afghanistan?
The Ambassador:Actually you are right, Korea has experienced very difficult times in early 20th century, we have been Japanese colony for 36 year, it means Japan colonized Korea for 36 years long, from the year 1910 to 1945, we were colonized by japan, it means we didn’t accept the sovereign power, just during the 36 years long, Korean people experienced very difficult times, but anyway in 1945, Korea was liberated by Japan at the end of second world war and then also we have Korean war kind of civil war between south and north Korea from 1950 to 1953 for three years long and it was total war between south and north Korea and it was not the partial war.
During this Korean War between South and North Korea many people died and killed. So starting from 1910 to 1953 around half of the century like 50 years long, Korean people experienced devastation of the country while Afghanistan passed around three decades. You experienced like of internal problems at the later of the last century while Korea faced at the first half of the last century. So both countries faced the same internal problems long years, so we experienced your situation here very realistically because we experienced your situation earlier than you, also China, Russia invaded to Korea before Japan colonization, so as you experienced such things.
In this sense we have very common experience. And regarding your press freedom of speech, I observed it. I arrived in Kabul like nine months ago and already lived like for nine months here. I observed your freedom of speech very well and everyday as I read the news and newspapers as well as watch TVs. So compare to other developing countries, relatedly Afghanistan media is highly developed in the recent years, and you have so many newspapers, TVs and Radios compare with other developing countries so this is the evidence of your freedom of speech, so I think your current status of freedom of speech in media is very very good and in particular in the last presidential election, afghan media role was great and because of such media and distribution or broadcasting of news about the process of elections, I think high turnout was possible and they encouraged the people to go to the polling centers. In the first round of the election, without your media role such high turnout was not possible.
Correspondent:Mr. Ambassador, The Korea Republic offers full paid Scholarships to Afghan people since years, how many scholarships does the Korea Republic granted for Afghan people and how many Afghan scholars received these scholarships so far?
The Ambassador:Ok, basically our scholarships for Afghan people is not so big in numbers, like India or Turkey, but anyway we provide every year around 10 Master degree for afghan students, and then every year we invite Afghan government officials like around 150 officials for short time training courses in Korea. So this is our current short time training programs.
Correspondent: Beside the Master degree scholarships, did you also have bachelor degree programs or PH.D programs or it was only Master Degree scholarships?
The Ambassador:No there is also some small amount of two or three bachelor degrees and till now one PH.D. In the future we will increase this number, but something unique in Afghanistan, I would like to state that not we only invite Afghans to Korea, we have some special vocational training programs in Kabul and Bagram airbase. So in Kabul, we are providing financial and management assistance to Afghan-Korea vocational training center in Kabul, until now from this Afghan-Korean vocational training center in Kabul, around 3400 afghan students graduated and most of them were employed.
At this center we are operating eight job skill courses, like computer education, vehicle automobile repair course, electronics repairing course, construction course, plumbing course, English course and clothing or garment courses. And every year we provide four million dollars for Afghan-Korea center in Kabul for operation since long time ago.
In Bagram airbase, there is another vocational training center and till now, around 1500 students’ graduated from this center and we have similar training courses like Kabul Vocational Center. But regarding the health area, we are also a big supporter for Afghanistan. In Bagram airbase, we are operating Korean hospital. And in this hospital around 55 Korean doctors are working, directly coming from Korea and until now around one hundred a thousand of Afghan people mostly from Parwan province were treated in this Korean hospital. So we would like to continue to operate this Korean hospital in Bagram airbase for the couple of years. And in Kabul also we are supporting Ebn-e-Sina hospital and we are planning now in the coming years to build a five story building for Ebn-e-Sina emergency hospital inside the current hospital to demolish all the building and construct new five story building. So for health area, our supports are not small.
Correspondent: The plan for construction of this Hospital is in the year 2014 or later?
The Ambassador: The plan to construct the hospital is to begin in earlier of next year in (2015) maybe after to see your new government.
Correspondent: Mr. Ambassador, How do you evaluate role of the regional countries in peace process of Afghanistan and how is the role of Korea Republic in Peace process and counter terrorism?
The Ambassador:It is a very difficult question, I have met Afghan people, Afghan ministers, Afghan leaders, even president Karzai, everybody when I met them, told me that Korean assistance in Peace process is very pure and totally in political agendas. Afghan people appreciates Korean assistance in economic area, development area, so it is not my comment, it is your Afghan leaders comments.
I don’t know why they say the same comments every time that Korean assistance is pure in political agendas. So it is true, we are helping Afghanistan mostly is areas of economic development in particular in agriculture, health, jobs skill trainings, so it means we are not so concerned in political issues because Korea has experienced the same Internal war as I told before and we mostly focused in economic areas in Korea and we were success in this aspect.
There is our advantages and Korea is very famous for speedy economic development, so this is our benefits and our skills. So we would like to do for Afghanistan what we had economic advances in Korea, we were not political advanced. We were not political power in the region so this is my answer. We are focusing on economic development and of course we hope to see peaceful reintegration, peaceful cooperation with regional powers in Afghanistan, but this is our hope and we do not play any political role.
Correspondent: Peace will come when we stand based on our economic development.
The ambassador: Our idea in any county, we think economy is first, in these days if you have successfully economic progress then other political issues will disappear slowly. If you try to solve the political problems without any economic progress, it takes long time and this is our experience. In Korea we had many political problems at the beginning, but our government focused on economic development.
Correspondent:I would like to ask that what are the future plans of the Korea Republic for Afghanistan & will you assist the new Afghan government? And also did you have any specific plans or activity for Afghan women and do you have any plan for their capacity building in the future?
The Ambassador: Ok, this is very important question, there are two different questions, first our intention with new afghan government, I met some leading presidential candidates in some receptions and some occasions and all the presidential leading candidates when I met them, they understand very well the economic development and Korean experiences and so I think who will win, regardless who will win, all the current leading candidates understand the Korean case and I felt that they are ready to share our economic experiences, so I am very pleased that Afghan candidates want to have good experience sharing with the Korea. So if the new government inaugurate we are ready to extend the current economic cooperation mostly in sharing our experiences, because our case in the world is very unique.
Korea was very poor also fifty years ago when we started and now we are developed in very short time. So our basic techniques on how to develop your economy, we have some skills and we want to share such skills and this is our point. And your new government also want to learn and share the experiences with Korea. So we would like to meet your new government when inaugurated so this was one point, the second point regarding the women, I have some statistics that I would like to give you, this is really simple that Korea is supporting afghan women’s welfare. Around 28.6 million USD only for afghan women welfare program in Afghanistan dedicated. We are helping in another areas too, and only for women we are paying a huge money.so we are providing the fund through UN agencies and they are contacting your Afghan ministries especially women ministry, interior ministry for female police and so they are making programs and of course the Korean embassy is involved. You can see that we have project which are as follow:
Nurturing the Afghan female police officers with financial support of 10 Million USD (3.5 Million expended) from 2013 to 2015, through UNDP (LOFTA) program for the Ministry of Interior.
GBV (Gender-based Violence) victim support with financial support of 4.2 Million USD that covers the years 2014-2016 thorough UNFPA programs for Ministry of Public Health.
Promote Afghan gender equality project with financial supports of 11 million USD for three years (2014-2016) via UNDP program to Ministry of Women Affairs.
Support of elimination of violence against Afghan women with financial supports of 3.4 Million USD from 2014 to 2015 through UN Women (EVAW SF) for Ministry of Women Affairs. That totally mentioned projects cost, 28.6 million USD.
So our embassy is in charge of these projects. So our intention is that without women participation in economic development, no success will be guaranteed. In Korea also when we started our economic development, in all villages and districts the women actively participated same as men, therefore we are now encouraging Afghan women on the basis of our experiences, so Afghan women role is very important for your future.
Correspondent: Mr. Ambassador, regarding the women appearances and participation in the society, I would like to ask a short question, we have mass participation of women in different areas of the society, how do you evaluate the Afghan women appearances in different aspects of society activities, in particular in political issues, economic issues?
The Ambassador: Yes, correct you are right, you country is still mixture of traditional society and the new democratization society, kind of mixture, in Korea we had also the traditional society in the past and now it is changing very fast with the passing of time, therefore I see in your country the women role in the society is gradually increasing, but in government officials, the women role highly increased, for example I heard that in the central government in Kabul, and in the ministries there are more than 20 percent women and of course in the provinces the percentage are lower, and in the parliament, in particular in the senate and the lower house the women participation is between 25 to 30 percent that even in Korea parliament we do not have that percentage so in government and political areas the women participation is not so small compare to other countries.
But in whole society and in press as well we have mass participation of women, but in entire Afghanistan still the number is low rather than other countries. Therefore we are encouraging through our programs to participate in the whole area of society in the future.
Correspondent:I would like to ask about KOICA, it was established to maximize the effectiveness of Korean grand aid to developing countries, so do you operate or run your programs via KOICA, especially the Vocational institute in Kabul receives the fund from KOICA or other channels?
The Ambassador:We have two different ways to Afghanistan, first we are operating through multilateral UN agencies, and not only for women issues but other economic areas too. We are helping for economic-social development areas, including the women. Amount of two hundred millions of dollar dedicated for the three years including the 2014 to 2016 through UN agenceis, but through KOICA the second channel of our assistance, which is directly to your government without UN agencies are Twenty Million of Dollar every year, KOICA is directly cooperating with ministry of women, labor affairs, and the vocational center as well as the hospital, which are the KOICA’s programs. But of course the activities taking action in coordination with Korean embassy in Kabul.
Correspondent:At the last I would like to have your short message for the women appearances in the society, especially for the women working for the Medias such as The Kabul Times and other dailies or Medias?
The Ambassador:I am so happy to see the women editors and reporters here, so I didn’t expect and I was expecting to only meet you, but surprised to see so many reporters working for The Kabul Times, so I think in the 21st century that we are living now, this period, we call the information period society, so in information society there is no difference between man and woman and their capacity.
But in the traditional society man was differentiated from woman. But in the highly developed IT society or the information society in any country in the world, there is no difference or physical differences between man and woman. So any woman who possess much information technology, she can win of a man. So I encourage Afghan women to learn more on the information technology and at the end the women participation in the society will expand.
Correspondent:Thank you so much for the interview and visit from The Kabul Times.
The Ambassador:My pleasure.