Norway’s brand of friendship has a fresh faceDidrik Tonseth, Norway’s new ambassador to Seoul, paid his first visit to an Asian country in July. He went to North Korea.
“My predecessor wanted to say goodbye to his contacts in Pyongyang,” said Mr. Tonseth. “So I went along for the ride.” As with his predecessor, the new ambassador wants to continue ties with Pyongyang as well.
Mr Tonseth arrived in Seoul last month. The first impression he had was that Korea is a fast moving nation whose people have great ambition and work extremely hard.
“People work long hours here,” Mr. Tonseth said. “There’s a sense of sacrifice for a bigger cause.”
In his first month in Seoul as ambassador, he has been impressed by how Korea ensures that its traditional heritage coexists with highly advanced technology.
Regarding economic ties, Mr. Tonseth believes the free trade partnership between Korea and Norway has been very important and has increased economic cooperation and development. The ambassador said during his tenure in Seoul he would act as a facilitator to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. He believes there is particular room for collaboration in the information technology sector. “Korea is known for hardware and electronics,” said Mr. Tonseth. “Norway’s expertise is in software. We make a good match.”
To strengthen economic cooperation, Mr. Tonseth said the Norwegian Embassy has set up various departments with different types of commercial expertise. One will focus on building economic ties with Korea’s shipbuilding sector, which currently holds the world’s biggest market share. Mr. Tonseth is also confident that Norway’s energy business can do well in Korea.
According to the ambassador Norway is not only one of the world’s leading oil exporters but is also focusing on developing environment-friendly energy sources using wind, water and the sun to produce pollution-free energies. “Norway is currently working on developing energy resources using tidal waves,” Mr. Tonseth said. “We hope to reduce greenhouse gases.”
The ambassador also said during his stay he would do his best to increase Korea’s awareness of Norway’s culture.
“This year we are celebrating the death of Norway’s most famous playwright, Henrik Johan Ibsen,” the ambassador said. The Norwegian writer was born in 1828 and passed away in 1906. “We showed one of his plays in Korea, which was a success.” Next year the Norwegian Embassy in Korea will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of world-renowned Norwegian composer, Edvard Greig. “His works will be performed in Seoul,” the ambassador said. Another event Mr. Tonseth hopes will help promote Norway is a projected visit to Seoul next year by the royal family including His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hakkon.
The ambassador began his career as a lawyer and rose to an assistant judge. The idea of serving his county as a public servant first came to him when he was attending the College of Europe in Bruges. “A wonderful small town in Brussels,” the ambassador said. “It came to my mind that, if I wanted to work as a public servant, why not be a diplomat?”
Mr. Tonseth, who speaks English, French, German and Spain says he enjoys bibimbap as well as kimchi. His main hobby is skiing. “In Norway I’ll often go cross country,” Mr. Tonseth said. The ambassador said he will continue to go skiing in Korea as he needs to ski to feel good.
by Lee Ho-jeong