Speech by President of the Republic Alar Karis at the opening of the Estonian embassy and Business Hub in Seoul
Honourable minister, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Estonia and Korea, while distant geographically are very close in mindset. We have excellent relations. We share the same values of freedom and democracy and it is easy for us to relate.
Our histories have ingrained deep in our national consciousnesses the understanding of what it takes to survive as unique cultures with our unique languages in the midst of bigger neighbors and through difficult times.
In 1919 our politicians met when travelling to world to garner international support for our newly formed republics. They understood and supported each other’s views. But both Estonia and Korea had to endure great hardships before being able to stand here today as successful and prosperous democracies.
Our histories thought us the importance of an rules based international order, where each country has a right to determine its path. Today, we must unite in our efforts to safeguard the world based on our shared values.
More than ever, the security in the Euro-Atlantic area and the security in the Pacific region around Korea is interconnected. We understand first-hand the challenges that you face as a peaceful democracy with autocratic neighbors.
Freedom, sense of responsibility and peace are a necessity if we wish to build a prosperous world for our people, where businesses can flourish and sustainable development goals are respected. The road to success across the whole gigantic area between the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean lies on our resolute contribution in to the stability and security.
This is why, we both help Ukraine to protect it’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, to protect its nation. Estonia and Korea have painful memories of wars on our soil. At the same time, we have both experienced the success of building a prosperous economy and democracy after foreign occupation.
We thank Korea for the strong support that you have shown for Ukraine, for all the help that you have already provided and the plans you have announced for the future. We are confident that Ukraine will win and that they will successfully rebuild their country.
Another lesson we both have learned from our past, is that we have to be ready to defend ourselves. We both value our Allies and friends. Today, Estonia is a firm and committed member of NATO.
At the heart of our national security is our own capability and will for self-defence. Both Estonia and Korea rely on reserve armies and a high level of combat readiness. Valuing highly Korean experience and quality, we have chosen your K9 howitzers as the backbone of our artillery.
With everything that connects us in the past and in the present, I am very pleased to open the Estonian Embassy in Seoul to intensify our cooperation even further. For a small nation with limited resources this is a very significant step.
One field where our relations have great potential is economic cooperation. That is why we established our first Estonian Business Hub here in Seoul. You are welcome to visit the Hub to find out more about the opportunities that Estonia has to offer.
You will see that as one of the most digitally advanced societies in the world, Estonians are focused on finding innovative solutions. We love to think out of the box.
Adding to that our strong belief in good education and knowledge, our attractive business environment and minimal bureaucracy, Estonia has become first in startups, in “unicorns” and in venture capital per capita in Europe. In fact, we have the highest number of “unicorns” per capita in the world!
Doing business in Estonia is easy. As Northern Europe’s hub for knowledge and digital business, we are your gateway to Europe and the European Union market.
This has been noticed in Korea. Today, I witnessed the signing of an investment agreement between HD Hyundai and Elcogen, an Estonian company at the forefront of innovation for the affordable and green hydrogen technology.
But not only Estonian companies innovate, so does Estonian government. Our ICT companies have built a digital society where 99% of government services are available online.
I invite you to experience it directly as an e-Resident of Estonia. Nearly 2000 Koreans have already done so. And almost 200 of them found it impressive enough to establish their own company digitally in Estonia, in the European Union.
Estonians and Koreans share a lot of experiences – the challenges we have faced throughout our histories, the unwavering will to become an economically successful and digitally advanced democracy, and the desire to live peacefully in a world governed by rules and cooperation not might and illegal aggression.
With the Estonian Embassy in Seoul, we will build on this and develop our cooperation further. And I hope that in a not too distant future we can double our efforts thanks to the Korean Embassy in Tallinn!