SL, South Korea trade potential underutilized: Ambassador

Monday, 26 August 2019

Sri Lanka and South Korea should join together in promoting more bilateral trade, said Ambassador of the Republic of South Korea to Sri Lanka, Heon Lee. Currently, the total trade is around US$ 352 million, while Sri Lanka exports are only USD 52 million.The Ambassador said the two countries should try to increase this figure as there is a tremendous potential to increase this. Questioned as to why Korean entrepreneurs are not investing in Sri Lanka, he said that one issue was lack of skilled labour. “This is the reason why most of the Korean investments have gone to Vietnam, Indonesia and China.”He also said that there were many investors especially in the apparel sector in the in Sri Lanka in the 1990s, but they had moved out to China.

Currently, three Korean companies are involved in Water purification and sanitation projects, Road development and construction projects.Heon Lee said that they would also sponsor a Korean Media team to Sri Lanka (on a FAM Tour) to say that Sri Lanka is now a safe destination to travel, specially as the Kandy Perahera too was concluded without incidents.

Korean Air operated three flights per week and my plan was to encourage them to increase it to four. “But now this proposal had been pushed back due to low arrivals, resulting in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday blasts.”He said while Bali, Male and Hawaii are considered top honey moon destinations for Koreans, Sri Lanka is the most popular pilgrim destination for Koreans.”This segment need more promotions”.

He said that the ‘issue of free visa on arrival’ facility to Sri Lanka was a welcome move.“Unfortunately, the Embassy knew about it only from newspaper reports and we were not officially informed about it,” another official from the Embassy said.Meanwhile, Representative HRD Korea, (EPS Centre in Sri Lanka) Kim Won Seok, said that Korea officially offers 5,000 employment opportunities for Sri Lankans in Korea per year. “However, this number has not been filled as only around 4,000 make it to Korea”.

Currently, there are around 60,000 Sri Lankan workers in Korea, while around 15% of them are overstaying. “This is an issue in Korea not only for Sri Lankans, but for most of the expat workers.”He explained that the Korea job contract is for three years, while it could be extended by another 10 months if the employer approves it. “However, if an employee was to overstay, tough action would be taken, while the said person would not even be able get a tourist Visa to Korea in the future.