Swedish ambassador bids his second farewell“I didn’t want to leave Korea earlier than scheduled. When I received the call asking me to return to Sweden to be promoted, my brain said yes but my heart said no.” Harald Sandberg, the Swedish ambassador to Seoul, returns to his country this week after finishing a two-year term in South Korea. When he came to Korea in 2003, he planned to stay at least three years and maybe five years as Korea has a special meaning for him ― this is where he began his career as a diplomat.
As an aspiring 27-year-old he volunteered to work in Korea, following his interest in international relations, and landed in the country in 1977 as second secretary. After returning to Sweden in 1979, he came back again 25 years later as a middle-aged man.
“I feel very lucky to work in one country twice. In particular, I was lucky to see Korea in the 1970s and 2000s. I could observe both internal and external change of the country. I tried to see Korea and its people through deep and wide human relations.”
To him, Korea was “a country of change.” Everything was fast and energetic. He pointed outside the window, saying, “When I came in 2003, the Cheonggye overpass had just been removed. And in two years the place is a park with running water.”
People’s attitude toward foreigners has also changed thanks to economic development and globalization. When he went to the beach in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, in the 1970s, around 400 people looked at him curiously as he walked out of the water after swimming.
Asked for an unforgettable memory, he first mentioned a temple stay at Magok Temple in South Chungcheong province. He enjoyed the experience of Korean history and culture so much that he visited Haein Temple four times.
When Mr. Sandberg felt homesick for Sweden, he went skiing at Yongpyeong. Last year, his three children visited Korea and the whole family went to the resort. He also organized a ski competition for foreigners at Yongpyeong.
At the end of September, Mr. Sandberg and his wife went on a three-day “farewell tour” along the west, south and east coasts in his jeep. “If I visit the country again in the future, I want to see Panmunjeom with the cease-fire line gone.”
When asked, “Who was the most unforgettable person he met in Korea?” he replied, “Nobody mentioned, nobody forgotten. I want to deeply thank the Korean employees at the embassy who worked really hard for a demanding ambassador.”
by Ki Sun-min