Op-ed : Making a Stronger Korea-Sierra Leone Relations
Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sierra Leone
Last year in November, the graceful new city hall of Freetown was opened to the general public. After four years of construction, the fifteen story tall city hall complex became the tallest building in Sierra Leone. This iconic building, which adorns the skyline of Freetown, was funded by the Korean Government amounting to USD 55 million and built with the help of Korean engineers. As Korean Ambassador to Sierra Leone, I am happy to note that it is now a symbol of robust friendship between Korea and Sierra Leone.
Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1962, Korea has always been a close friend of Sierra Leone and vice versa. During the Ebola crisis, my country sent a team of medical experts and medical supplies to help contain the virus. And now during the current pandemic, Korea again provided support to help fight the disease. Korea donated 19,200 test kits to Sierra Leone through the World Health Organization and 200,000 face masks through UNICEF. The strong solidarity that we share with the people of Sierra Leone in the fight against COVID-19 will help us overcome the pandemic together.
The friendship between our two countries goes further than just fighting diseases together. Korea and Sierra Leone both share similar histories, as we both suffered from civil war. But the people of both countries also share great optimism and hope for a brighter future. We share a common vision of peace, prosperity, and progress. This is why Korea continues to closely collaborate with Sierra Leone in various areas including politics, economy, culture, public health, fisheries and education. The delivery of four speedboats, the provision of five protocol vehicles to the Foreign Ministry, and the reconstruction of a burnt primary school are among the examples of recent Korean support that have helped strengthen our bilateral relationship.
As this is my first visit to Sierra Leone, not only was I awed by the great beauty of this land, but also by the culture of strong education and diverse history. It was a great wonder to watch the sun set in the scenic Atlantic Ocean from Freetown, but I was more surprised to learn that Freetown was renowned for being “Athens of West Africa,” with students and scholars coming from all over sub-Saharan Africa to Fourah Bay College (FBC), the very first university in West Africa. This shows how much the people of Sierra Leone value education as Koreans do. In this regard, education is an excellent area for further enhancing mutual cooperation, and I look forward to visiting one of the prestigious colleges one day to have a fruitful discussion with the bright minds of this country.
Next year will mark the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Sierra Leone. The last 60 years have been great, but together we can make the journey of the next 60 years even better. We will celebrate the auspicious years with cultural events in Freetown and at the same time focus on ways to strengthen cooperation in a wide range of areas including trade, infrastructure, fisheries, food and water security, people-to-people exchange, and sharing of knowledge and skills. Our future path will shine brightly, as we walk toward the path of prosperity together.