Finland in brief
Major cities: Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu, Turku
Official languages: Finnish, Swedish
Population: 5.5 million
Religion: Lutheran (73.8%), Orthodox (1.1%), other/none (25.1%) (2014)
Area: 130,596 square miles
Number of Korean expats: 558 (2015)
Finland recognized the Republic of Korea in April 1973, and diplomatic relations were established in August 1973. At the time, Korea had already established a trade mission in Helsinki in April 1972, with the purpose of promoting trade between the two countries. Koreans nowadays can find various ways to travel to Europe with the emergence of numerous routes and there’s a direct flight between Seoul and Helsinki. In 2015, over 35,000 Koreans visited Finland, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.
Last year, the trade volume between Korea and Finland was almost $1.5 billion: exports from Finland to Korea amounted to 752 million euros ($836 million), while exports from Korea to Finland were approximately 527 million euros.
For Finland, Korea is the third-most important trading partner in Asia. Finnish exports have mainly been machinery, electronics, wood and paper products, while emerging sectors include solutions related to renewable energy, clean technology and welfare. Imports from Korea are mainly electronics, cars, machinery and plastic products.
Direct investments from Finland to Korea amounted to 121 million euros in 2013.
Destination for design
A list published by the Finland Promotion Board in 2012, titled “All-Time Top 12 Finnish Design Products,” includes the sauna, a dish-drying cupboard developed by Maiju Gebhard, a pair of Fiskars orange-handled scissors, the Artek Stool 60, the Moomins, the Linux open computer operating system, design house Marimekko, the video game Angry Birds and Nokia mobile phones.
Hilkka Heimonen was born in Oulu, in the northern part of Finland. Before accompanying her husband abroad, she was a preschool teacher, and she continued her teaching career overseas, in Finnish schools in Berlin and Geneva. Heimonen was also executive director of the Finnish Sauna Society and secretary general of the International Sauna Association. Currently in Seoul, she is president of the Nordic Club Seoul, an association for the Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish expat communities. At the Finnish Embassy, she manages the ambassador’s residence.
Born in Seinajoki in 1957, Matti Heimonen graduated with a master’s degree in arts from Oulu University. Before his post as the ambassador to Seoul, which began in 2012, he served as consul general in Shanghai (2008-12), coordinator of export promotion and internationalization for the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2004-08) and deputy head of mission at the Finnish Embassy in Tokyo (2001-04). Heimonen has also been posted in Berlin, Geneva and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.