Georgia, Korea mark 20th year of diplomatic ties
Today we celebrate the Independence Day of Georgia, which commemorates the establishment of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1918. The country regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and was soon internationally recognized as a sovereign country.
Georgia is strategically located at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, and its history dates back more than 4,000 years. It has one of the oldest Christian Orthodox churches, and its unique alphabet can be traced back to the 5th century BC. Despite centuries of turmoil, Georgians have managed to maintain a strong national identity and societal pride. In November 2003, a peaceful Rose Revolution brought into power the current President Mikheil Saakashvili and his circle of Western-oriented political reformers. Since then, Georgia has followed the path of radical political and economic restructuring and has created a model of governance ensuring irreversible development of its democratic institutions.
The domestic policies of the Georgian government prioritize the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In August 2008, by means of a large-scale military aggression Russia occupied the inalienable Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and subsequently recognized their non-existent “independence.” Today 20 percent of our country is still occupied in grave violation of the norms and principles of international law and the Six-Point Ceasefire Agreement of Aug. 12, 2008. Even under these conditions, Georgia is ready for comprehensive talks with Russia on normalization of the relations, and strives to achieve full de-occupation of the two territories through peaceful means, relying strongly on the continuing support of the international community.
Georgia’s main long-term foreign policy goal is integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, where it naturally belongs geographically, historically and culturally. The country also strives to diversify its international ties, and great importance in this regard is given to developing the cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region.
This year we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Georgia and the Republic of Korea. Korea has provided Georgia with substantial technical assistance implemented through KOICA and Korea Foundation programs. In 2011, Georgia opened its embassy in Seoul. In March under the auspices of the MKE and the KOTRA, Korea-CIS-Georgia Business forum was held in Seoul. It was followed by a Seminar on the Economic Situation and Investment Opportunities in Georgia, organized jointly by the KCCI and the Embassy of Georgia and a month later, the MKE dispatched a delegation of government officials and business representatives of more than 40 companies to participate in the first Georgia-Korea Business Forum in Tbilisi. In March this year, the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili paid his first official visit to the Republic of Korea to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit. He also held a bilateral meeting with the President of the Republic of Korea Lee Myung-bak, in which the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues concerning our bilateral relations. The government of Korea supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and has demonstrated that it will continue to support Georgia politically and contribute to our economic development.
In 2011, the trade turnover between our countries amounted to $55.3 million. To achieve sustainable economic growth, the Georgian government has reduced the tax burden on its businesses, lowered import duties and removed all quantitative restrictions on trade. In 2011, the country’s GDP grew by 7 percent reaching $14.7 billion, the rate of inflation dropped to 2 percent, the foreign trade turnover increased by 36 percent, and the FDI totaled $981 million. Georgia was rated as the world’s number one reformer by the World Bank in its Doing Business survey in 2008, and 16th in the world in terms of Ease of Doing Business in 2012. In 2011, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings consecutively upgraded the country’s credit rating to BB- from B+. Now the country is a major route for export of oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea basin to the Mediterranean.
We would like to extend an invitation to Korean companies to engage in close business, research and development collaboration with Georgian partners. Our country offers unique and diverse investment opportunities in infrastructure, transport, energy, banking, agriculture and trade. Georgia is being reestablished as an attractive tourist destination with imposing historical heritage, spectacular scenery, and rich cultural, culinary and musical traditions. We see a great potential for cultural exchange between Korea and Georgia as well, stemming from our shared affinity to arts, crafts, music and education.
Whatever your interest in our country may be, the recently established Embassy of Georgia in Seoul will spare no effort to facilitate your contacts with Georgian counterparts. It is our mission to provide the Korean people with information about Georgia, and strengthen the diplomatic, political, economic and cultural ties between our two governments and peoples.
The writer is Georgian ambassador to Korea.