Panama’s envoy educates through lectures

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Panama’s envoy educates through lectures

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Aram B. Cisneros, Panama’s ambassador to Korea, reaches out to students.

The canal and who should own it used to be the main thing people cared about Panama. But Aram B. Cisneros, ambassador of Panama to Seoul, says there’s much more to discover about his home country other than the canal.

Cisneros has embarked on a series of lectures at local universities to tell students more about Panama. He has already lectured at Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University and Korea University, and the ambassador has an upcoming lecture at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies on Thursday and Yonsei University next Tuesday.

The Korea JoongAng Daily sat down with Cisneros to discuss key themes of the lectures and how he would like to help strengthen Panama’s ties with Korea.

Q. Why did you start giving lectures?

A. The aim was to make Koreans understand what Panama is all about because I heard the image of Panama is limited to the canal. Although the canal is in Panama, the country is not only about the canal. The country is about many things.

In my opinion, the job of an ambassador is to represent the country where he or she comes from. The ancient meaning of the word ambassador means messenger. So, I am the messenger of Panama. The presentation is part of my efforts to explain Panama to my host country.

Which parts about Panama do Koreans not know?

I found many Koreans are not familiar with the origin of Panama. I think it’s essential for one to understand the origin in order to truly study a country.

Panama didn’t exist some millions of years ago. It was under water. It slowly came out of the water and united South and North America. The presentation’s title is “Panama Keeps Changing the World.” When Panama emerged from the sea, it changed the climate of the oceans, Africa and Europe, and it changed plants and animals around the world. So, the origin of Panama was a starter to begin the lecture.

What is the main theme of the lecture?

Its main theme is the economy because that’s my background. I studied marketing at the university back in Panama. I explained the unique nature of Panama’s economy.

Korea is an industrial powerhouse. Korea builds ships, automobiles, laptops and cell phones. Other countries are agricultural powerhouses like Vietnam.

Many other countries have natural resources. But Panama is mostly about the service industry. The backbone of our economy is the canal and the services around it.

Most of Panama’s industries - from offshore communities, telecommunication companies, bankers and logistics - are around the canal, the hub.

Is there any part that you try to focus on in regards to Korea?

I’m trying to highlight my opinions on why Korea has been successful. One of the reasons is that Koreans are homogenous physically, culturally and ethnically. I would not say that is a requisite for success, but in the case of Korea it has helped a lot. It made it easier to go in one direction because for success you need two things: the right direction and the ability to move in the right direction. Korea seems to have chosen the right direction, and all Koreans have walked in that direction together. So, in the beginning of the presentation, I showcase faces of some prominent Koreans like Park Chung Hee, Psy and Kim Yu-na to show how similar you are and then put faces of Panamanians to show how different we are. We have Indians, blacks, Jews and Spanish. That doesn’t mean we are doomed. We are just different.

Which part was the audience especially interested in?

The audience was interested in the history of the canal and the relationship with the United States.

They also questioned the independence of canal and how the canal gets electricity. I explained a bit about that.

The university students are the ones who will lead this country in the future. So, I thought it’s important to let them know about my country, and I hope the lecture broadened their knowledge about Panama.


By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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