Guatemala aims to get technological assistance
He assumed his post on July 17 and was appointed with three other ambassadors by President Park Geun-hye on Aug. 9, at the Blue House.
“Korea is a very important country for us, especially for our minister of foreign affairs. He considers Korea is our number one priority country in Asia. That’s why he gave me this big responsibility to close ties with the Republic of Korea,” said Calderon.
Before Calderon’s previous post as ambassador to Chile, he spent extensive time posted in various cities in the United States. This is his first time in Asia, excluding Indonesia.
“First of all, we want your technology, and your country has very serious institutions and a very serious private sector,” he said.
“We have good relations with Taiwan and China. We have relations with Japan. But we look at Korea for its technological market.”
There are about 10,000 Koreans living in Guatemala, whose total population is about 13 million, he said. The first batch of Korean settlers came in the 1980s to work in Guatemala’s thriving textile industry.
Regarding meeting with President Park, he said, “We talked about cooperation and the support Korea is giving us,” which includes in academics, national security, technology and human resources.
“She mentioned the fact that the Korean government wants to expand that cooperation and welcomed the visit of our president.”
He added, “I was very impressed that she spoke Spanish to me. That caught me by surprise - she spoke very relaxed.”
Calderon is arranging a visit from Guatemala’s minister of foreign affairs for later this year, and the president has an impending invitation to Korea for next year.
Korea exports mainly textiles, iron and vehicles to Guatemala, he said.
From January to April, Korea exported $428 million in goods to Guatemala, while Guatemala exported $75 million in goods to Korea, Calderon said.
Guatemala exports mainly coffee and sugar to Korea.
But Calderon pointed out, “We have oil, silver, nickel and premium rum.” Guatemala is the No. 1 producer of cardamom, a type of ginger seed, which is sent mostly to Arab countries.
“The transport and cost is the main question. We in Central America always look at the United States because of the closeness, and we have a free trade agreement with it, but I think we have to look at other options.”
There are also more than 50 students with scholarships in Korea.
Besides boosting trade, investment and commerce, as well as a free trade agreement with Korea and Central American countries, he said, “There is a lot more to do and that has to be constructed through cultural ties, tourism, and we would hope there could be a direct connection between Korean airlines to Guatemala or Central America in general.”
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]