Portugal sees potential in the green economy and tourism to boost South Korea business ties, the country´s ambassador to Seoul has said.
Portuguese ambassador to Seoul, Manuel Gonçalves de Jesus, told The Korea Times that
Portugal “is doing quite well when it comes to clean energy using wind, hydro and solar” and will make green energy its main source of energy.
“The transition is supported by information technology (IT) and Korea can play an important role in IT”, he said.
“There are many made-in-Korea cars and mobile phones in Portugal”, the ambassador said.
Portugal’s major exports to Korea include machinery and equipment, but the goods trade balance weighs more on the korean side.
“There is a little imbalance, but it is compensated by the tourism sector as more Koreans visit Portugal than Portuguese visiting Korea”, Jesus said.
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, the embassy is planning a series of events, despite the pandemic, including in May a conference in celebration of the World Portuguese Language Day, which falls May 5.
“Portuguese is the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere and the day highlights the economical weight and cultural importance of the language. We will host a Portuguese language competition among students, but it is likely to be held online due to the pandemic,” the diplomat said.
A film festival to be held in collaboration with the Cinematheque Seoul Art Cinema and an economic conference also line up, but as virtual editions.
The ambassador expressed regret over the pandemic marring the budding interest in Portugal as a popular tourist destination among Koreans. In the past, Portugal was mainly known for Fatima, a Catholic pilgrimage site, but the travelers’ demand diversified recently.
“Before the pandemic, there was a huge increase of Koreans visiting Portugal in recent years, reaching up to 200,000 in 2019. Portugal was featured in TV programs and the first direct flight to Lisbon was launched in 2019,” the ambassador said.
The ambassador emphasized the importance of cultural exchange between the two countries.
“If you go back 20 years ago, Portuguese people knew little about Korean literature. Now, more Korean literature is translated into Portuguese and if you ask my daughter in her 20s, she knows well about Korean writers, musicians and especially cinema,” the Jesus said.
“From our side, we have a series of classical Portuguese literature translated into Korean. The most well-known would be Jose Saramago, after him receiving the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature.”
Korea and Portugal established their diplomatic ties on April 15, 1961.
Though the history of modern diplomacy between the two countries has run for 60 years, the beginning of the relationship goes back to the 16th century.
“The first Western map featuring the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Korea was made by Portuguese. These maps were very important as Asia was a new world to Europeans back then.”
Manuel Gonçalves de Jesus worked for various departments of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and serving as ambassador to East Timor before being named ambassador to Korea in October 2017.