Jordan has much to offer to Korean tourists — ambassador

When Bom-yon Lee was working as a consul general at the Korean embassy in Japan three years ago, he came across a Korean TV drama that featured many tourist attractions in Jordan.

Initially only planning to visit the Kingdom, he “luckily” ended up working as Korea’s ambassador in Jordan, he said.

“I have always wanted to visit Jordan which is rich in heritage and home to many attractions for tourists… When I started my tenure almost a year and five months ago, I started exploring the country as my mission as an ambassador to boost ties and explore new opportunities for cooperation,” the Korean ambassador said in an interview with The Jordan Times on the occasion of the Korean National Day, which is marked on Sunday.

The ambassador, who said Jordan and South Korea established diplomatic ties in 1962, noted that bilateral relations have been growing rapidly in various sectors. Tourism, he said, is one of the key areas that witnessed improvement, with more Koreans coming to “explore Jordan’s fabulous tourism attractions”.

In 2016, around 127,890 Korean tourists visited Jordan, a 11 per cent increase from the previous year. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of Korean tourists to Jordan reached 6,059, up by 41 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2016, according to the ambassador.

“The Jordan Tourism Board has been actively inviting Korean crews to feature Jordan’s tourism sites and this seems to be working well. We can see more tourists coming to Jordan and I believe such efforts need to continue,” he said.

“My message to the Korean tourists is that there is so much to explore in Jordan: the wilderness, Wadi Rum, Petra, Dead Sea, Wadi Mujib and many others,” Lee said.

The ambassador, who said “he was on a mission to boost ties on all fronts,” said the focus in the coming period will be on exchange of expertise in various fields and cultural cooperation. He referred to the Korean Language Department at the University of Jordan, where 200 students are currently learning Korean.

“We offer scholarships for students to complete their studies in Korea and I will work on increasing the number of these scholarships,” he said.

In terms of cultural cooperation, several activities celebrating Korean cultural performances are scheduled with one major performance this month, the ambassador said.

“We are also working with the Jordanian embassy in Seoul to promote Jordanian culture, tourism and heritage,” he added.

Currently, 23 per cent of Jordan’s electricity is generated by two power plants implemented and operated by Korean investors.

Korea is entering the field of renewable energy in Jordan with two investments valued at around $300 million, he said.

“Construction on a $180 million wind plant in Shobak will be completed by the end of October, while construction on another wind plant in Tafileh is due to start by the end of this year,” he added.

Since the start of diplomatic ties, Korea extended some $53 million in grants to Jordan and some $250 million in soft loans.

Korea has already provided technical assistance and implemented several development projects in the fields of water, health and education and vocational training.

In September, Korea completed the construction of a special school for students with hearing impairments in Jordan. The $5.2 million institution, built with a grant from Korea, can accommodate 300 students and is furnished with the latest equipment and tools.

Korea regularly sends Korean volunteers and experts to various areas of the Kingdom to share their expertise with their Jordanian counterparts. There are 23 Korean volunteers at present in Jordan, he noted.

‘New areas

of cooperation’

The ambassador said that Korea was now keen on increasing its collaboration with Jordan in the fields of IT and pharmaceutical industries.

“Jordan has a very advanced pharmaceutical industry and IT sector and it enjoys skilled resources,” he said, noting that cooperation between Jordanian and Korean companies has already started in the pharmaceutical sector.

With regard to the IT sector, a delegation from NHN Entertainment Corp., a South Korean developer, publisher and distributor of mobile and PC games, will visit Jordan soon to explore opportunities and cooperation in this regard.

“This will help enter regional markets and build partnerships across the region,” Lee added.

On trade ties, he noted that the balance is currently in favour of Korea, with Jordan’s imports from Korea reaching $620 million in 2016, mainly in automobile, spare parts and electronics. Jordan’s exports to Korea in 2016 reached $50 million and included phosphate, fabrics, aluminum scrap, among others.

“We predict an increase in trade exchange this year,” he said.

Korea’s exports to Jordan reached $405 million by September of this year, while Jordan’s exports to Korea reached $43 million.

“I believe there is a great potential that needs to be tapped and, as an ambassador, I will work on strengthening ties and ensuring that this potential is realised,” Lee concluded.