The following article was contributed by H.E. Michael Schwarzinger, Austria Amb. to the Republic of Korea so that it can be inserted into the NDNnews & The Seoulcity magazine. -Ed.
By H.E. Michael Schwarzinger, Austria Amb. to the Republic of Korea
“Austrians regard Korea as a leading country in next generation technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 5 G telecommunication”: Austria Amb. Michael Schwarzinger
Austria’s Head of Government Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz paid an official visit to Korea on 14 and 15 February. He was accompanied by Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research Heinz Fassmann and by a large delegation of representatives of Austrian companies and national media. Austria and Korea share a history of bilateral diplomatic relations of more than 120 years. The visit of Chancellor Kurz marked the first visit of an Austrian Head of Government to Korea in 19 years. Premier Minister Lee had had met Chancellor Kurz in Vienna on 25 May 2018.
The Austrian delegation was deeply impressed by the generous and warm hospitality by which it was received by President Moon Jae-in and by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.
President Moon received Chancellor Kurz in the Blue House on 14 February where they discussed ways to improve their countries’ bilateral ties as well as various global issues, including the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. South Korea and Austria have developed their friendly cooperative relationship over the years while sharing common values, such as democracy and human rights, as close friends. For Austria, Korea is the third most important trading partner in Asia. The bilateral trade volume recently has surpassed 2 billion Euro, and obviously there is scope for further expansion. Also tourism, in both directions, which develops quite well, was discussed. Austria’s economy is made up largely of small and medium-sized enterprises. So part of the dialogue concerned policies to strengthen this sector.
After the reception and talks in the Blue House, Prime Minster Lee received the Chancellor and his delegation in the Central Government Building. In the evening, the Prime Minster hosted a formal dinner at his official residence.
Austria is a leading nation in Europe measured by per capita expenses for science and technology. Both Austria and Korea see advantages in further strengthening the cooperation of enterprises and research institutions. Austrians regard Korea as a leading country in next generation technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 5 G telecommunication. There is much that Austrians can learn in Korea. On the other hand, the Korean side spoke highly of advances in Austria in basic research. With that in mind, Minister of Science and ICT You Young-min and Minister Heinz Fassmann signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding, with which both partners express their intention to expand forms of joint fundamental research. The Austrian side also expressed an interest to more smoothly bridge the distance from basic research to the application on the market. While Korea is the first country which establishes a 5 G network, the Austrian Government works to make that country the frontrunner in Europe in rolling out 5 G telecommunication.
On top of this, the summit served as an opportunity to reaffirm the endorsement of the inter-Korean peace process by Austria. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pledged full support for South Korea’s policies with a view to overcome the conflict with the North and for reaching the goal of making the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
Other topics of the dialogue were the current developments in Europe, including an exchange of opinions on the Brexit. Austria held the rotating Council Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2018.
Chancellor Kurz also delivered the keynote speech to the „ Global Engagement & Empowerment Forum On Sustainable Development“ co-hosted by the Institute for Global Engagement and Empowerment of Yonsei University and the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. Austria supports the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, which is located in Vienna. In the margins of the forum, Federal Chancellor and the co-chairmen of the Ban Ki-moon Centre, Ban Ki-moon and former Federal President Heinz Fischer, signed a Memorandum of Understanding.