South Korea 'probably the only country that can understand Israel's plight,' new envoy says

Rivlin warmly welcomes old friends and new as four ambassadors present credentials to president.

December 5, 2014 02:40
3 minute read.
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN (R) and Lee Gun-Tae, the new Korean envoy

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN (R) shakes hands with Lee Gun-Tae, the new South Korean ambassador. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)


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South Korea is probably the only country that can understand Israel’s complicated situation Lee Gun-Tae, the South Korean ambassador and the last of four who presented their credentials on Thursday, told President Reuven Rivlin.

The other three were Ivo Schwarz, the former chief of the civilian intelligence service (UZSI) of the Czech Republic; Gustavo Antonio Otero Zapata, who served as Peru’s ambassador to Russia before his posting to Israel; and Doulat Kuanyshev of Kazakhstan whose previous posting was in India.

In welcoming Lee, Rivlin said that he had visited Korea as communications minister.

“Till I came to Seoul, I thought there was only one miracle, Israel, and then I saw what you have done since the 1950s.”

Rivlin lamented that no president of Korea has ever visited Israel and via Lee, extended an invitation to President Park Geun-hye, saying that he would be happy to receive her. Meanwhile Lee would like to increase bilateral tourism.

Although many Korean Christian pilgrims come to Israel, Lee wants to boost general tourism. Commenting on the pilgrims, Rivlin said: “Some of them know the Bible better than we do.”

“Only the New Testament,” Lee responded.

As communications minister, Rivlin inspected some of the top Korean communications companies and was pleased by the cooperation between Samsung and Israel.

Lee reminded him that this cooperation was established soon after Rivlin’s visit.

At his meeting with Schwarz, Rivlin repeated what he had said a week earlier to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, about how Israel would be eternally grateful for the support it had received from Czechoslovakia in 1948, and that it would never forget the supply of Czech rifles.

Schwarz, who accompanied Sobotka, told Rivlin that he had been to Israel several times.

Zapata who served as second secretary at the Peruvian Embassy in Israel 30 years ago, told Rivlin that he felt as if he had come home. “I have a deep feeling for Israel and that will help me to do my job in promoting bilateral relations,” he said. “I come to Israel with an open heart.”

Peru, he added, is always looking to improve its commercial relations with Israel and toward that aim has opened a commercial office in Tel Aviv.

Rivlin responded that Israel would like to open a commercial office in Lima. Aside from commercial ventures, Peru is interested in Israel’s innovations, particularly with regard irrigation said Zapata.

Kuanyshev is keen to establish direct aviation links between Israel and Kazakhstan.

He is also eager to get Israeli participation in Expo 2017, which will take place in Astana, where the main topic will be Future Energy: Action for global sustainability.

First South Sudan envoy to arrive next week

Ruben Marial Benjamin, the first ambassador of South Sudan to represent his country in Israel, will present his credentials next week to Rivlin. The appointment was announced in September and is within the framework of South Sudan’s foreign policy to increase its diplomatic presence in strategic countries.

Only established in 2011 having gained independence from Sudan, and one of the world’s poorest countries, South Sudan is heavily reliant on its allies and neighbors.

With the establishment of an embassy in Israel, South Sudan will have a total of 25 embassies around the world.

Benjamin will be the third of four ambassadors presenting credentials next week.

The others are set to be Feliciano Antonio dos Santos, ambassador of Angola; Nathaniel G. Imperial, ambassador of the Philippines; and Margaret Ann Louise Jobson, the non-resident ambassador of Jamaica.

Ordinarily the president accepts the credentials of between three to five ambassadors at one time, but never more than that. On Thursday he accepted the credentials of four ambassadors, and with the envoys mentioned above, the total will come to eight in the space of a week.

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