[Friends for decades] Friendships bud across Korea and the Netherlands

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[Friends for decades] Friendships bud across Korea and the Netherlands

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Korea, Joanne Doornewaard, speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily about the 60 years of the Netherlands-Korea relations at the Dutch Embassy in Seoul on March 16. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Korea, Joanne Doornewaard, speaks with the Korea JoongAng Daily about the 60 years of the Netherlands-Korea relations at the Dutch Embassy in Seoul on March 16. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Although Keukenhof, the world-renowned botanical garden in the Netherlands, will be off-limits to visitors this spring over coronavirus concerns, Korea is one place where the blooming Dutch tulips and flowers can be enjoyed in person.
 
“Kicking off the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Netherlands and Korea will be the tulip festival at Everland which will be open through April,” said Joanne Doornewaard, ambassador of the Netherlands to Korea, in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.
 
“The event will be part of a line of celebrations we have in plan to celebrate our special anniversary this year,” she said. “Just as hwangap, or 60th birthday in Korea, holds special meaning in Korean culture, we believe that this year is an important year for the Netherlands and Korea to celebrate both the completion of one cycle of friendship and the beginning of a new one.”
 
To celebrate the 60th anniversary, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Seoul is also: Supporting an exhibition at the National Museum of Korea through November 2022 showcasing ceramics obtained by the Dutch during their travels in Asia during the 16th and 17th centuries; hosting Dutch artists at the Gwangju Biennale and Busan International Short Film Festival in April, as well as in the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism and Jarasum Jazz Festival in September and October; supporting a concert by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra later this year; and supporting an exhibition by Erwin Olaf, a renowned photographer based in Amsterdam, at the Suwon Museum of Art in Gyeonggi near the end of the year.
 
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted many people's livelihoods, and the Netherlands have been no exception. The country has extended its coronavirus lockdown recently over rising infections, and has also recommended its citizens to refrain from traveling until May 15.
 
These are the times that especially call for like-minded nations to work together, Doornewaard said.
 
“The Covid pandemic has posed enormous challenges to the international community, more than ever before, and we need new energy and innovative ideas,” she said. “The Republic of Korea and the Netherlands stand for multilateralism, for a belief that these challenges can be overcome by working together. We will cooperate to address global threats, to tackle environmental issues such as climate change and air pollution, and to uphold and strengthen the international rule of law.”
 
Ambassador Doornewaard meets with university students in Korea virtually due to the Covid-19 social distancing guidelines. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

Ambassador Doornewaard meets with university students in Korea virtually due to the Covid-19 social distancing guidelines. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

Navigating activities in a pandemic-stricken world can be tricky, but the Netherlands and Korea have managed to host a number of interesting exchanges, especially in the field of innovation and technology last year.
 
“The innovative spirit is something that links the young people of the Netherlands and Korea together,” Doornewaard said. “The Dutch people, especially the youngsters, are really interested in Korea. When they see Korea, they see the entrepreneurs and the high-tech industries, in addition to Korea’s K-pop acts like BTS, and Korean movies like ‘Parasite.’
 
“For instance, we had a gaming event last year where students of the two countries came together and created games for educational purposes,” she said. “I had joined the event virtually last year, and was quite inspired. They were cooperating closely together and were open to each other’s ideas, and it was a glimpse of what the bilateral ties could look like in the next 60 years, as it will be these young people who lead the two nations together in the coming decades.”
 
The following are edited excerpts of the interview in which the top envoy from the Netherlands in Korea recounted the milestones in the two countries' bilateral ties, including people-to-people exchanges that date back even centuries, and highlighted growing bilateral attention on sustainable agricultural practices and renewable energies.
 
 
Can you tell us more about the ongoing projects between the Netherlands and Korea on sustainable agricultural practices?  
The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the United States. The Dutch like to be responsible citizens, and as consumers we are used to looking for the vegetables that have been grown without the use of pesticides, and we also tend to look for coffee beans that have been harvested and traded under fair working conditions. The Dutch and Koreans share many things in common, and our passion for coffee might be one. In all, I believe we have a lot of knowledge to share with Korea on how the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved in the agricultural sector.  
 
The Netherlands is also well-known for its water management skills, given that almost a third of the country sits below sea level. How have these skills been employed in its relations with Korea?
Korea also has a lot of knowledge on water management, so the two nations have been working closely as partners in this area. We have a growing cooperation on ports, as Rotterdam is the gateway to Europe. The port authorities of Rotterdam and Busan have been working together on smart port management. Lately, the Busan Port Authority invested about 10 million euros ($11.7 million) in a big warehouse in Rotterdam, and with Samsung SDS will be operating a distribution center.  
There are some 150 Korean companies active in the Netherlands, as they see the Netherlands as the gateway to Europe. I think the businesspeople connect very well because of our innovative way of thinking. One of the products that will likely see a boost in trade will be electric cars from Korea, because the Netherlands intends to have all the cars in the country be electric by 2030.  
 
The Netherlands and Korea are celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, but some Dutch, well known for their explorations in the early modern period, appears to have landed in Korea centuries before that. Can you tell us more about them?
A Dutch sailor by the name Jan Jansz Welteveree was on his way from Taiwan to Japan when he got shipwrecked in Korea in 1627. He ended up working as the king’s bodyguard in Korea, and adopted a Korean name, Park Hyun. He was the first Dutchman who was registered to have visited Korea.
Another Dutchman, Hendrik Hamel, came about 16 years later, when he was shipwrecked in Jeju. He stayed about 30 years here. His report about his visit here, “Description of the Kingdom of Corea,” was one of the first instances when Korea was introduced to Europe.
There are also accounts of Koreans in the Netherlands before the diplomatic ties were officially established. One of the better known is the event in 1907, when King Gojong sent envoys to the Hague Conventions to protest against the Japanese plans to occupy Korea. The envoys were not able to join the conventions at the time, and one of them, Lee Jun, died in the Netherlands. A monument has been set up in the Netherlands to commemorate him.
 
A statue of Hendrik Hamel in Gangjin County, South Jeolla, in 2018. South Jeolla is one of the locations Hamel stayed during his 30 years in Korea during the 17th century. [JANG JEONG-PIL]

A statue of Hendrik Hamel in Gangjin County, South Jeolla, in 2018. South Jeolla is one of the locations Hamel stayed during his 30 years in Korea during the 17th century. [JANG JEONG-PIL]

Tulips abloom near a museum set up in remembrance of Hendrik Hamel in Gangjin County. The location is close to where Hamel is thought to have lived in South Jeolla. [GANGJIN COUNTY OFFICE]

Tulips abloom near a museum set up in remembrance of Hendrik Hamel in Gangjin County. The location is close to where Hamel is thought to have lived in South Jeolla. [GANGJIN COUNTY OFFICE]

The Netherlands sent thousands of its soldiers during the Korean War [1950-53], also before the diplomatic ties were established in 1961. Around 4,000 Koreans were adopted in the Netherlands after the war. Are you aware of any instances where they have served as a bridge between the two nations recently?
I met several adoptees throughout my career, many of them very successful in what they do, but one specific person that comes to my mind now is Lavinia Meyer — she is a harpist, very well known. She has played in New York, with the Berlin Philharmonic, and she also played during the state visit in 2014.
 
Lavinia Meyer performing during the royal state visit from the Netherlands in November 2014. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Lavinia Meyer performing during the royal state visit from the Netherlands in November 2014. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

What are you looking forward to in the next 60 years of relations between the Netherlands and Korea?
This is my second year in Korea, and what I've seen has been very encouraging, especially because I’ve seen how open the young people are in both nations to each other’s ideas. Recently I met a group of around 80 university students in Korea through a virtual event to celebrate International Women’s Day, and they were very curious to find out about practices and policies that could empower women and enhance gender equality. Despite the pandemic, the people-to-people exchanges, especially among the students, are continuing to bloom, as there are around 1,000 Korean students studying in the Netherlands currently. In my conversations with them, it was clear to me that these students had not only gained skills and knowledge in what they studied, but an open mind to different cultures and lifestyles, something that they will need as they move forward in their careers in the global world. These young minds are the future of the bilateral ties, and I am excited for what they will be able to achieve together.
 
Logo created by the Dutch Embassy in Korea to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Korea. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

Logo created by the Dutch Embassy in Korea to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Korea. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

1961 Diplomatic ties established
The Netherlands and Korea established diplomatic ties on April 4, 1961. It was four years after the formation of the European Economic Council, which would later become the European Union, with the Netherlands as one of the founding members. The Korean Embassy in the Netherlands was established in 1968 and the Dutch Embassy in Korea in 1969.
 
1985 Prime ministers’ visits
The first visit by the Dutch prime minister to Korea took place from April 12 to 16 in 1985, when then-Prime Minister Rund Lubbers came to Korea. Included in his delegation was Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek. Lubbers met with Korea’s then-Prime Minister Lho Shin-yong, who in return visited the Netherlands two years later.
 
Dutch Prime Minister Rund Lubbers, right, greets Korea’s then-Prime Minister Lho Shin-yong during the first visit by a Dutch prime minister to Korea, from April 12 to 16 in 1985. [KOREA TV]

Dutch Prime Minister Rund Lubbers, right, greets Korea’s then-Prime Minister Lho Shin-yong during the first visit by a Dutch prime minister to Korea, from April 12 to 16 in 1985. [KOREA TV]

2002 Kim Dae-jung in Amsterdam
Then-President Kim Dae-jung stopped by Amsterdam on his way to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Copenhagen in September 2002. The visit was just a few months after Korea hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, during which its national team, coached by Guus Hiddink from the Netherlands, made it to the semi-finals for the first time. At ASEM, Kim sought international support on his administration’s policy on North Korea.
 
Former Korean President Kim Dae-jung arrives in Amsterdam in September 2002. [KOREA TV]

Former Korean President Kim Dae-jung arrives in Amsterdam in September 2002. [KOREA TV]

2011 EU-Korea FTA
The European Union-Korea FTA was provisionally applied since July 2011 before it was formally ratified in December 2015. The trade between the Netherlands and Korea reached $3.85 billion as of 2019, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra). Korea’s main exports include jet fuel, alloy metal, construction equipment and electric vehicles. The Dutch main exports to Korea include machines and equipment for production of semiconductors, naphtha and dairy products.  
Within Europe, the Netherlands is the second-largest nation of exports and imports, just after Germany, and about 40 percent of goods imported into the Netherlands is exported to other nations in the region, according to Kotra.  
 
2014 Royal state visit
King Willem-Alexander visited Korea from Nov. 3 to 4, at the request of then-President Park Geun-hye, who had visited the Netherlands in March, marking the first official state visit by the president of Korea. It was actually King Willem-Alexander’s fifth visit to Korea, including the visits he had made as a prince since 1999, but the first since being enthroned.
 
From right, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, then-President Park Geun-hye and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands during the royal state visit to Korea in November 2014. The king and queen are being welcomed by young children in Korea holding flags of both nations at the Blue House. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

From right, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, then-President Park Geun-hye and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands during the royal state visit to Korea in November 2014. The king and queen are being welcomed by young children in Korea holding flags of both nations at the Blue House. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

2016 Elevation of relations
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Korea in September, marking his first visit to Korea since his inauguration in 2010. It was during his visit that the Netherlands and Korea agreed to elevate their relations to a comprehensive, future-oriented partnership.
 
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, in Korea in September 2016. In this photo he is pictured with Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach of Korea's national football team that made it to the semi-finals in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, in Korea in September 2016. In this photo he is pictured with Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach of Korea's national football team that made it to the semi-finals in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

2018 PyeongChang Olympics
The Dutch athletes won 20 medals in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February 2018, which placed the Netherlands in fifth place on the medal table. They won eight gold medals, six silver and six bronze. The Dutch athletes dominated the individual speed skating events, taking seven gold medals, and also won their first-ever gold medal in short-track speed skating.  
 
Dutch athletes score during the Women's Banked Slalom in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

Dutch athletes score during the Women's Banked Slalom in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. [EMBASSY OF THE NETHERLANDS IN KOREA]

2021 Tulip festival
It has been a tradition at Everland, a theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi, to hold tulip festivals around this time every year since 1992. Marking what was the nation’s first tulip festival then, the event has garnered over 4,000 participants as of 2019. Around half of the world’s flower-related products are from the Netherlands, and the country exports around 4.3 billion tulip bulbs every year, according to Kotra in 2019. The tulip festival will be held through end of April this year at Everland.
 
The tulips festival is held through the end of April in Everland, a theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi. [NEWS1]

The tulips festival is held through the end of April in Everland, a theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi. [NEWS1]

BY ESTHER CHUNG   [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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