Posted : 2013-08-18 19:37
Updated : 2013-08-18 19:37

Uzbek Amb. leaving after 18 years of love with Korea

Amb. Vitali Fen
By Kim Se-jeong

Amb. Vitali Fen, who has played a pivotal role in boosting the relationship between Uzbekistan and Korea, is wrapping up his 18-year stint here.

The 65-year-old Uzbek ambassador arrived in Korea in December 1995 and his first mission was to open a resident embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul.

"Right from the beginning (of the state), the leadership in my country decided that we'd work closely with Korea," he said during a recent interview.

His government couldn't find a better person than Fen. His ethnic Korean background was an important element.

Also, he already had a professional working experience with Korea. He was a member of the Soviet Union's cabinet during the late 1980s, and was sent to South Korea during the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games. As vice sports minister, he was tasked with taking care of the Soviet athletes during the entire time.

In 1992, he was again in Korea as part of an advanced team preparing for Uzbek President Islam Karimov's first state visit to Korea.

"I am so happy with how the relationship looks," said the outgoing ambassador in response to his assessment of the bilateral relations that dates back to 1992. And his expression of satisfaction is felt much more poignant because of his direct involvement.

Fen organized 12 state visits for President Karimov with Korean presidents, the most recent of which was last year. "It's good fortune that I could do so many," he said.

The frequency was even higher under the former President Lee Myung-bak. Each year they met during the last five years.

"They met in 2005 when Lee was still the mayor of Seoul. My president was visiting Seoul. They instantly became friends, and two years later, Lee was elected president," Fen said in retrospect.

A lot has been achieved on other fronts. The fallen Daewoo Chairman Kim Woo-joong opened an automobile manufacturing line, producing 300,000 cars yearly, with dozens of affiliated suppliers in the vicinity.

Korean Air cargo flights arrive and depart from Navoi airport, a regional logistics hub for the company. Around 1,200 Koreans will soon depart for a gas project in Uzbekistan under the supervision of the Korea Gas Corporation and Lotte Chemical.

Direct passenger flights between Incheon and Tashkent are fully booked at all times, accommodating Koreans and Uzbeks who travel back and forth for business and personal reasons.

He is going back home, but he is also leaving what has become his home.

The achievements of the last couple of decades have built the foundation for a strong relationship, and he paid special thanks to former General Assembly Speaker Lee Man-sup.

Both professionally and personally, "whenever I needed help, I called him up, and he helped me out."

He is one of the founding members of "Hansamo," a group of ambassadors with Korean language fluency that was founded by Lee. Hansamo means a gathering of those who love Korea.

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