|To gauge the direction of cooperation between Korea and the world, Korea.net is running a series of interviews with ambassadors to Korea. Korea.net met with Finnish Ambassador Eero Suominen, who discusses the similarities between both nations and advancement of bilateral ties ahead of the state visit of President Moon Jae-in to Finland starting from June 9.|
By Yoon Sojung
Photos = Jeon Han
Video = Kim Sunjoo and Choi Taesoon
Seoul | May 17, 2019
“Education, hard work and diligence.”
These are three common values that both Korea and Finland put emphasis on, according to Finnish Ambassador to Korea Eero Suominen.
Mentioning prowess in information technology (IT) as another common trait, he said, “This will help both countries create synergy through cooperation.”
On the upcoming state visit of President Moon Jae-in to Finland starting from June 9, the ambassador on May 17 told Korea.net, “I hope Seoul and Helsinki can strengthen bilateral cooperation in various sectors such as energy, science and free trade through (President Moon’s) state visit.”
The following are excerpts from the interview held at the Finnish Embassy in Seoul’s Jongno-gu District.
– President Moon Jae-in will pay a state visit to Finland from June 9. What agenda do you expect both countries to discuss?
This is the first high-level visit (by a Korean leader) since the state visit of President Roh Moo-hyun in September 2006. We consider the visit a very important event.
I hope the two countries discuss measures to deepen relations and expand cooperation especially in the economy, science, energy and health sectors. At the same time, we’ll also discuss ways to promote free trade and fight protectionism, as well as (Seoul’s) inclusive growth policy, welfare and gender equality.
– You have often said Korea and Finland share similarities and common traits. Can you elaborate on this?
We have a good chemistry. Both countries highly value education and hard work. We value that you deliver what you promised. These are what make our chemistry work. We can find similarities in our geopolitical situation and also our history, as we are small countries surrounded by bigger powers. Also, we have other common traits: love of sauna and IT. These are what unite us and make our chemistry work.
– What do Finns have in mind when they think of Korea?
First, they know Korean products. Sales of Korean cars such as Kia or Hyundai have gained more popularity in the Finnish market. We also know Korean electronic goods such as Samsung’s, and of course, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. We are winter sports people so watching the Olympics on TV was part of our February last year.
Also, I must say there is a very strong soft power (in Korea): K-pop. I know many people first get interested in Korea through K-pop, and they learn the Korean language and get to know more about the culture. This is something very interesting to us.
– What sectors are both countries showing the most active cooperation in and what are promising fields for potential collaboration?
We are countries of engineers, and thanks to this common trait, IT is a very vivid sector for bilateral cooperation. Both countries have world-leading companies like Samsung and Nokia, and the two countries have been actively developing smartphone applications. We have also been working on new technologies by combining IT, digitalization, and the health and medical sectors.
For future cooperation, I would say energy, design and food are promising sectors. The two countries are especially interested in environmentally friendly energy to jointly respond to climate change and air pollution. Design and food are other promising sectors.
– Since your first interview with Korea.net last year on April 19 ahead of the April 2018 inter-Korean summit, three summits between both Koreas and two between North Korea and the U.S. have been held. How does Finland see the overall peace process on the Korean Peninsula?
In general, we see it very positively. We are very happy that both sides show a willingness for dialogue. Now, it’s a much more peaceful atmosphere in the border area, and steps are being made to reduce military tension.
This is my third year (as Finnish ambassador to Korea), and compared to now, it was very tense two years ago. (On the peace process,) I think it has worked quite well. As an outsider, (Finland) is relieved that very concrete steps are being taken to make more peaceful and more predictable what happens in the border area. In general, (European Union) countries consider complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization very important. As far as the summits are concerned, of course, there are ups and downs and the course has not been easy. Although the course needs patience and takes time, I hope that steps are being made to resolve the issue.