Preparation for the next 60 years

Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to South Korea Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo (Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Seoul)

In 1962 Korea needed markets in new countries for its burgeoning strategy of export-oriented industrialization. Diplomatic relations were the first step in this direction. Fifteen Latin American and Caribbean countries benefited from this promotion, including mine, the Dominican Republic.

Exporting to my region has helped Korea become the sixth largest exporter in the world and the tenth largest economy. It is now a leading source for quality products at affordable prices.

Coherence is the one word that comes to mind when thinking about bilateral relations with Korea.

Public policies such as climate change and digitalization are immediately projected through foreign policy initiatives, including generous cooperative efforts, affordable development finance, highly detailed technical assistance, and ambitious trade and investment deals.

All of this, of course, paired with business partners willing to provide the required goods and services, as well as the know-how to operate and further develop it.

The Dominican Republic has always benefited from Korea’s coherence through knowledge-sharing programs on export development, electronics production or medical device regulation; through educational programs in reproductive health or technical professions; or by reducing customs transit times from two days to two hours.

This coherence is now in full bloom, just in time for the energy transition – in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement – with the New Deal adopted in 2020 as a reference for Korea’s new international initiatives.

As we turn the page of the crisis sparked by COVID-19, the Dominican Republic is keen to follow in Korea’s footsteps to make progress in a strategic alliance for decarbonization, circular economy creation, digitalization, enhanced social protection, decentralized development and better progress nearshoring.

Decarbonization is no small feat as it implies achieving carbon neutrality in all sectors: agriculture, manufacturing, energy, transport, services and households.

Korea’s New Green Deal is the backbone of the long-term climate strategy we aim to emulate, including transitioning to alternative energies in a decentralized manner, relying on hydrogen-powered fuel cells, solar panels and wind turbines.

Eventually, carbon neutrality should eliminate the use of conventional fuels such as coal, gas and oil. But the manufacture of batteries, fuel cells, solar panels and wind turbines requires the extraction and processing of aluminium, lithium, nickel, rare earth elements and many other critical minerals.

Such extraction and processing has yet to become carbon neutral and clean. Hence the urgency to create a circular economy that ensures the full recycling and reuse of critical minerals in end-of-life batteries and minimizes the likely impact that would result if we replaced our reliance on a few ‘petrostats’ with new ‘electrostats’ would.

Logo Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Korea-Latin America Diplomatic Relations (Costa Rican Embassy in Seoul)

Logo Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Korea-Latin America Diplomatic Relations (Costa Rican Embassy in Seoul)

Digitization goes beyond the proliferation of 5G networks, operational in the Dominican Republic since early November 2021, as they enable the adoption of new technologies and standards for seamless communication between people, businesses and things, and the achievement of full online Access to public and private spaces requires services and the intelligent management of cities.

Korea’s New Digital Deal, coupled with technical support from the World Organization of Smart Cities, contains the elements of what the Dominican Republic wants to follow.

Strengthening social protection is an essential element for the forthcoming transformations. The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is accelerating, displacing industrial workers – with robots – and services – with artificial intelligence algorithms – who need to be retrained to avoid permanent unemployment.

Reinforced social protection therefore goes beyond unemployment insurance by aiming at the eventual reintegration of displaced persons. Korea’s proposals in this regard are well worth considering.

Balanced national development is a public policy that has been pursued in Korea for the past two decades. The alternative is to concentrate manufacturing, public services, education and research, increasing the likelihood that unexpected shocks – like COVID-19 – will cripple the entire economy.

By spreading wealth creation across all regions, decentralized development prevents disruptions in one of them from affecting the performance of the others, ensuring national resilience.

Nearshoring production is another policy response, arising from the need for resilience, but at the international level only in case further disruptions threaten the effectiveness of supply chains to deliver just-in-time.

By opening new manufacturing facilities – of batteries, medical devices, medicines or semiconductors – in countries like the Dominican Republic, Korean manufacturers could produce at the low cost, high productivity and minimal taxes that we offer, while reliably supplying the end markets with it We have free trade.

As we prepare for the future, Korean companies are already taking advantage of business opportunities. Nineteen companies produce textiles and apparel for export to the United States. Samsung and LG dominate in home appliances and electronics. Hyundai Motor and Kia are the two best-selling car brands.

Kepco is expanding transmission lines, Posco is increasing LNG storage capacity, and SK is investing in LNG generation. SK and Kogas are bidding for additional LNG generation capacity. Kogas offers for an LNG import, storage and distribution terminal.

And in mass transit, Hyundai E&C and Dohwa Engineering are offering tenders for light rail in Santiago and Santo Domingo, respectively.

This ambitious agenda is the least we could aspire to – as we prepare for the next 60 years of bilateral relations – if we are to leave a better world for our children.

One where they can continue to enjoy the friendly competition of our baseball players as well as the creativity of our cultures, whether it’s Korean movies and pop music or Dominican bachatas, movies, merengues and Latin jazz.

The Dominican Republic hopes to share a good taste of it this year, with the first Dominican Film Festival in early June, a concert by our Grammy award winner Michel Camilo, our top sculptor Juan Trinidad’s residency in Korea, and gastronomic festivals, including VIP dinners Michelin stars and art exhibitions during Korea’s first Dominican Week, scheduled for early October.

May these initiatives leave no doubt as to the importance the Dominican Republic places on Korea, a country that, despite civil war, colonialism and a troubled neighborhood, has risen to the top in less than two generations.

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Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo is the Dominican Republic’s Ambassador to South Korea. He contributed this column as part of the Korea Herald’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and 13 Latin American countries with embassies in Seoul. — ed

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