Make Colombia a destination for 2022, says envoy
“Seventy years ago, our relations revolved around conflicts, as the Colombian Battalion came to defend Korea after the outbreak of the Korean War, and Korea assisted Colombia through its conflicts,” said Caiza in his office in Seoul on Monday.
“But now, Korea is a completely changed nation. Colombia is now an OECD nation, with a stable economy. The two nations signed an FTA five years ago, the first FTA Colombia signed with an Asian nation.
“Going forward from here,” he added, “we are ready for a new agenda. And the best step forward, I believe, is to get to know each other more in person.”
Student exchanges, tourism and business trips have all but ended globally since the onset of the pandemic. But with vaccinations picking up across the globe, including in Colombia and Korea, it is not too early to start planning for more travelers, Caiza said.
Colombia was the first country in Latin America to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax scheme earlier this month. The country’s vaccination campaign began on Feb. 17.
“One year from now, the two nations will be celebrating their 60th anniversary and I would like to invite Koreans to see Colombia for themselves that year,” Caiza said. “Once in Colombia, they will know what I mean when I say Colombia is a destination for tourism, education and businesses.”
The following are edited excerpts of the interview in which the top Colombian envoy in Korea describes some of the latest business incentives for foreign companies, scholarship opportunities to study in universities in Colombia, as well as the details of an upcoming presidential visit this August.
Q. Tell us more about what potential visitors to Colombia in 2022 can look forward to.
A. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, which is explicable given that the country consists of five worlds. Thirty-five percent of land in Colombia is the Amazonian region, while 15 percent of the land is the Orinoquía region, which belongs to the Orinoco River watershed and is rich with wide plains and savannahs. Then there is the Andean region, the most populated part of the country, home to the buzzing city life of Bogotá and Medellín, which sits below the Caribbean region, home to colonial cities against the backdrop of beautiful coastlines. As the country is the only Latin American nation with access to both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, completing the nation’s geography on the west coast is the Pacific region, home to tropical jungles and Cali, the largest city in the region, known for its vibrant city life.
Q. What does Colombia offer for Korean students?
A. We have seen an increase in the last four years in the number of Korean students pursuing studies in Colombian universities, many of them pursuing masters’ degrees and PhDs. But at this point I would like to present Colombia as a destination nation if you are looking to study Spanish. There was a report by the World Bank that by 2100, more people in the Americas, from the United States to Argentina, will speak Spanish than English. Colombia is one of the top destinations to learn Spanish because in big cities like Bogota you will learn the language in its clear and traditional form [without local accents] and at the same time you will have the opportunity to understand how people live and work in Latin America.
Q. It has been the objective of the current Colombian government to increase investments in the so-called creative sector. Are there ongoing projects between Colombia and Korea?
A. There are two projects ongoing in the film industry, one of them being the Korean thriller “Bogota” starring actor Song Joong-ki. Within the next few months, some Korean filmmakers will begin filming in Colombia for a movie called “Dreams.” There are a number of incentives for foreign filmmakers in Colombia, including cash rebates for international movie shoots. There is also a tax break for Colombians who invest in foreign filmmakers’ works in Colombia.
Q. What are other business incentives are there for foreign companies to invest in Colombia?
A. Nowadays, Colombia has a set of different kind of taxes and investment incentives in different areas of the economy, including cultural industries, mega investments, in free trade zones, energy and innovation. For instance, the government of Colombia has promoted projects classified as mega investments, which will be subject to tax at a rate of 27 percent. Investments in the free trade zones will pay a 20 percent tax rate. We also have a tax exemption on sales of power generated from non-conventional sources of energy, with a 15-year exemption on tax from 2017 on sales of electricity generated from wind, biomass, agricultural waste, solar, geothermal or sea energy.
Q. Will green growth and renewable energy be on the agenda of the upcoming visit by Colombia President Iván Duque?
A. Yes, included on the presidential visit’s agenda are meetings that focus on multilateral cooperation on climate change, such as those regarding the [outcomes] of the P4G summit in Korea, as well as with the Global Green Growth Institute, Global Climate Fund and other institutions. Colombia intends to reduce 51 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which is an increase from its previous 20 percent target, compared to its 2014 levels.
In addition to meeting with President Moon Jae-in, President Duque and the Colombian delegation are scheduled to sign around a dozen MOUs with Korean counterparts on industry, health, veterans’ affairs, green growth, creative industries and entrepreneurship. The president will also visit some of Korea’s smart cities and startup centers, and lead the delegation’s meetings with heads of universities in Korea.
The state visit will be another testament to our strong bilateral ties. There was recently an announcement by the Korean government to maintain the status of Colombia as a prioritized country for Korean international cooperation through 2025, a strong message to enhance and foster the Korea-Colombia strategic cooperative partnership.
Q. Despite the Covid-19 situation, there are a number of official visits from Colombia and others from the region planned next week, in the lead up to the Korea-LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) forum on digital cooperation. What are some Colombian objectives in this meeting?
A. The Colombian minister of agriculture will be visiting Korea next week to take part in the LAC forum, to discuss the latest cooperation on applying digital technology, such as drones, to agricultural industries. The minister will also meet with many counterparts to discuss entry of new products from Colombia, such as avocados, and an increase in opportunities to enjoy Colombian coffee here. The same week, Colombia’s deputy minister of culture will be visiting to not only participate in the LAC forum but also meet with several Korean film companies.
Q. For many of our readers unable to travel at this time, what cultural events do you recommend to get a glimpse of Colombian arts and heritage?
A. From April through June, the embassy and the Korea Foundation is hosting an exhibition of works by Carlos Jacanamijoy, one of the top five painters from Colombia. Visitors will be mesmerized by his choice of colors. When he was once asked why he chooses such colors, he is reported to have said that they represent the colors of the jungle in the Amazon.
This is the type of cultural exchange I would like to promote through next year. My hope is to host a number of Korean writers at a book fair in Bogota in 2022, and bring a number of Colombian writers to a book fair in Korea the same year. There is so much to be discovered between the two nations in the world of literature and the arts.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]