1st Thing Back in Australia: He Wants a Korean MealTony Hely's days in Korea are numbered. With barely a week left until the end of his tenure as ambassador of Australia, Mr. Hely is focused on making sure the Australian foreign affairs minister has a successful visit to Korea next week and tying up the last loose ends before turning the embassy over to his successor, Colin Heseltine. Mr. Hely, his wife Wendy Jeffery and their two Maltese terriers, Shakespeare and Sam, leave for Australia on Friday.
Mr. Hely came to Korea three years and three months ago, landing smack dab in the middle of a country crippled by a financial crisis. Australian businesses in Korea were in a panic, and Mr. Hely's hands were kept full trying to assuage their fears. Since then he has seen Korea pull itself up, shake the dust off and bravely venture forward. He has seen two Koreas frozen in stalemate melt into a "positive development." With some nudging from Australia, the two nations marched together for the first time in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He has seen bilateral ties strengthen and was here to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, the end of which marked the beginning of Korean-Australian relations.
After all is said and done, Mr. Hely says three years have "come and gone too quickly." He leaves behind a country he describes as intense and dynamic. As the clock winds down, he thinks ahead to his new post as high commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, starting in July. The West is new territory to Mr. Hely, whose previous diplomatic postings were in Tokyo for three years and Jakarta for two years.
For his last Korean media interview, he gracefully settles his 197-centimeter-tall frame into a leather chair of his sparsely furnished office to talk to the Joong-Ang Ilbo English edition.
IHT-JAI: How are you going to spend your last moments in Korea?
HELY: It's now too late for anything that I wanted to do in Korea. I would have liked to have gotten out into the countryside more often, spent some time on the islands in the West and South, and seen a few more national parks. I love walking and I love traditional Korean temples which are usually in the national parks.
I've never been to Mount Jiri despite that a very good friend of mine, who is now the Korean ambassador to the United States, came from that area. He invited me several times to spend a weekend with him and his wife in Jiri-san, but I never made the trip. I regret that very much.
IHT-JAI: What's the first thing you're going to do in Australia?
HELY: I'm going to look up the Korean ambassador and talk him into cooking a Korean meal for me. Then I have to start briefing for Canada.
IHT-JAI: In what areas do you foresee Australia and Korea working together in the future?
HELY: Traditionally, our trade with Korea has been in commodities, agriculture and raw materials. The new engine of growth in "Smart Australia," the Australia of the new economy, is the information communication technology industry.
Australia is strong in basic scientific research and innovation, whereas Korea is strong in commercializing and global marketing networks. There is enormous potential to bring these complementary strengths together. The window of opportunity to pursue these goals will be within the next five years.
Both Australia and Korea have young but very vibrant movie industries. Australia is increasingly becoming a destination for people either to make movies or to do post-production work, and the Korean film "Wanted" ["Hyeonsangsubal" in Korean] was filmed in Australia.
For some time Korea has been the fastest growing source of inbound tourists to Australia. In 1997, there were 230,000 holiday makers hailing from Korea. While that number decreased in the years following the financial crisis, as of next year the numbers are expected to return to normal. Forecasts up to 2010 are for very strong growth. I won't have a chance in my last week to push these sorts of areas, but they are the areas of the future.
IHT-JAI: Has the influx of Asians affected Australia cuisine?
HELY: Asians revolutionized Australian cooking. We've always had exceptional quantities of fresh food, but we never knew what to do with it. That changed from the mid-'60s onward when immigration policy became more generous and we became a multi-cultural nation.
Australian cooking today centers on fusion between East and West, since many of our newcomers are Asian.
IHT-JAI: Do you have any last words for your fellow Australians?
HELY: Korea, especially during the past three months, has been going through a period of economic uncertainty while basic inter-Korean relations have slowed.
But aside from that, I have a sense of confidence in Korea and its national development. I think that its economic prospects are good and that it will become a major power in the Asian region.
To my fellow Australians, I would say have confidence in the outlook of Korea. Look at forming commercial partnerships with Korea and diversifying opportunities.
by Joe Yong-hee