Andriy Parubiy, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament Verkhovna Rada, believes that interparliamentary exchanges can open up diverse channels of cooperation between countries.
It is what translates the abstract language of diplomacy into real connections and frank understanding, spanning the whole spectrum of national industries and communities.
In order to elevate bilateral political relations and explore new avenues of prosperity, he signed a memorandum of understanding in Seoul on Wednesday with National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang.
“Our parliamentary friendship groups are very active, and we believe we are ready to enter a new level of cooperation,” he told The Korea Herald in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Interparliamentary relations are important in activating cooperation across wide areas. Political exchanges can open the door for future collaborations between our industries and companies.”
Parubiy came on his first official visit to Seoul and held meetings with Moon, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, corporate executives and members of the Ukrainian community here. He also laid a wreath at the National Cemetery for the April 19 Revolution in Seoul.
“Ukraine is a gateway to the whole of the European market for Asian companies,” he said, adding his country has solid commercial relations with Poland, Georgia, Belarus and Moldova as well as Germany. “Ukraine is often called the ‘breadbasket of Europe,’ having a large, fertile agricultural land where high-quality grains, wheat and other produce are grown in abundance.”
Other industries ripe for foreign investments are information technology, logistics and transportation and aerospace and aviation, according to the politician. He added that the Ukrainian government has discussed the possibility of launching joint partnerships with Korean companies to manufacture train locomotives in Ukraine. Joint ventures for the production of agricultural machines also have ample potential, he added, noting they can be exported to Ukraine’s neighboring markets and the European Union. Parubiy stressed the current visa requirement placed upon Ukrainian citizens in entering Korea has hampered greater collaboration, while Koreans have been exempt from the requirement for visiting Ukraine.
“Cooperation in the information technology field has big potential, but due to the visa regime placed on our citizens, it has not materialized fully,” he said. “We need to remove barriers between our countries, and eliminating the visa regime was one of the key issues I discussed with my Korean counterparts during my visit.”
He assuaged fears, saying that removing the visa regime would not lead to Ukrainians illegally entering Korea, as EU countries, which do not have such visa restrictions on Ukrainians, have had no issues with his compatriots.
During the meeting with Parubiy, Prime Minister Lee asked for Kiev’s support for ethnic Koreans who have lived there for decades following a forced relocation from Russia’s Far Eastern region in the late 1930s.
“The 30,000 Koryo-in people in Ukraine are playing the role of a bridge between our two countries and aiding cooperation,” said Lee. “Please lend assistance to them so that the diligent ethnic Koreans can better settle in Ukraine and contribute to its development.”
Parubiy said Kiev and Seoul share historical similarities stemming from their geographic locations, including occupation by foreign forces. But both have managed to enroot democracy and a market economy, he lauded.
This year also marked the centennial of Ukraine’s proclamation of independence on Jan. 22, 1918.
The Ukrainian highlighted Kiev’s growing aspirations to be part of the European Union. Ukraine and the EU signed an association agreement in 2015, which entered into force last year.
“We are in the process of amending our constitution to bolster cooperation with EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” he said. “We have implemented far-reaching reforms targeting the police, military, justice system, energy sector, education, pension, health care and other areas. We are empowering local self-government and anti-corruption institutions, while developing the electronic declaration system for greater transparency in public procurement and salary.”
Parubiy added that Kiev has implemented these reforms while simultaneously countering Russia’s “hybrid aggression,” which he said ranges from political destabilization across the country and warfare in the east to military provocations and cyberattacks.
“We are implementing these reforms while fighting Russia’s aggression. As a result, we have to spend more than 5 percent of our gross domestic product on the military, a rate higher than any NATO member state. In spite of all our challenges, we stand firm in our resolve to reform and develop our country further.”
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org