Bangladesh is Korea’s priority partner country: Lee Jang-keun

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal
Ambassador of South Korea (Republic of Korea) in Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun

Ambassador of South Korea (Republic of Korea) in Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun

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Ambassador of South Korea (Republic of Korea) in Bangladesh Lee Jang-keun said, In terms of ODA, Bangladesh is Korea’s priority partner country and the third largest recipient of ODA with a total volume of 790 million US dollars between 1987 to 2019. Infrastructure is another area where the two countries have developed close ties in recent years which has led to the launch of the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) platform between the two governments in 2019. People-to people and cultural exchanges also played important role in the strengthening of our bilateral ties. Currently there are around 20,000 Bangladeshi people living in Korea, most of whom are expatriate workers and their families.

He said this in an interview with Bangladesh Travel Writers Association (BDTWA) recently.

In this interview, Lee Jang-keun also said, we are making an effort to establish direct airline connections between the two countries.

Lee Jang-keun

BDTWA has the opportunity to participate in Korean Film Festivals and Korean Travel Fair in National Museum last year. BDTWA president Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal made a wonderful power point presentation on that program.  BDTWA team meets with H.E. Lee Jang-Keun several times and arranges the interview. Interview is taken by Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal and Shakil Bin Mushtaq. Md. Zakaria Mondol was present in the pre-interview meeting. Here is the interview of the Excellency-

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: How H.E sees the role of South Korean companies, in the beginning and growing phases of Bangladesh's RMG industry, which became the world's second largest RMG exporter, has been well known to many Bangladeshis?

Lee Jang-keun: RMG has been the center of Korea-Bangladesh business ties since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries. Korean companies have played a central role in the development and growth of Bangladesh’s RMG sector. Mr. Nurul Qader, founder of Desh Garment and father of Bangladesh RMG industry, entered into a partnership with a Korean company, Daewoo Corporation in 1979. According to the agreement with Desh Garment, Daewoo invited 133 Bangladesh engineers, workers and managers to Korea in 1979 and gave them training for 6 months. With Daewoo’s technical cooperation, Desh Garment has grown to be the leader of the Bangladesh RMG sector. Those who went to Korea for training, including the late mayor of North Dhaka City Corporation, Mr. Anisul Haq, scattered around the country and planted the seeds of the Bangladesh RMG industry.

At present Korea is the 5th largest FDI country in Bangladesh with a stock investment volume of 1.4 billion dollars as of the end of 2021 out of which 924 million dollars is in the RMG sector. KEPZ in Chattogram is the first and largest private EPZ in the country operated by Youngone Corporation. There are around 100 Korean RMG companies in Bangladesh employing around 200,000 local workers. Youngone alone has invested more than 600 million US dollars employing more than 70,000.

In order to share the success stories of Korea-Bangladesh RMG collaboration, my Embassy recently prepared a video documentary of bilateral relations focusing on RMG cooperation.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: There are lots of potentials in the education sector in South Korea as we have seen students from all over the world go there for higher education. Does Korea have any plans for Bangladeshi students? Scholarship etc.

Lee Jang-keun: Currently about 1,400 Bangladeshi students are studying in  Korea. Majority of them are pursuing higher masters or doctorate degrees in the engineering field. Most of them are studying with partial or full scholarship.

While the Korean Government does not have a large scale scholarship program for Bangladeshi students, individual Korean universities also have their own scholarship programs for foreign students.

GKS, Global Korea Scholarship, is the major Korean Government scholarship for foreign students both for undergraduate and graduate studies. Annually between 15 to 20 Bangladesh students are going to Korea under the GKS scheme. This year, 7 Bangladesh students were admitted through this program for graduate studies in various Korean universities. Between 2011 and 2022 almost 200 Bangladesh youths have benefited from the GKS program. My Embassy is making various efforts to disseminate widely the information on studying in Korea in  cooperation with the GKS Bangladesh alumni association.

Korea is becoming a more and more popular destination for Bangladesh students even though the COVID-19 pandemic affected many aspiring Bangladesh youths wanting to study in Korea due to the visa restrictions. After the lift of visa restrictions in November 2021 an increasing number of students are going to Korea. The number of student visas my Embassy issued in 2019 just before the COVID-19 pandemic was around 450. In 2022 until now we have issued more than 600 student visas. The number of Bangladesh students going to Korea will continue to increase in the coming years.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: According to the current state of both country's bilateral trade status, how does H.E see the future trade relations? 

Lee Jang-keun: The bilateral trade volume between Korea and Bangladesh reached a record high in 2021 crossing 2 billion US dollars. According to the Korean statistics, in 2021 Korea’s export to Bangladesh was 1.636 billion US dollars, 58% increase from the previous year, while Bangladesh’s export to Korea was 552 million US dollars, 40% year-to-year increase.

The increase of bilateral trade is a very natural and welcoming development. In this regard, I would like to point out that the bilateral trade volume between our two countries has been stagnant almost 10 years after it reached 1.63 billion US dollars in 2011. During the pandemic in 2020 it dropped to 1.4 billion US dollars.

This year in 2022, the increasing trend of bilateral trade is continuing. During the first half of 2022, Korea’s export to Bangladesh increased by 43.2% year-to-year with 1 billion US dollars, while Bangladesh’s export to Korea grew by 34.3% with 342 million US dollars. Considering the solid continued economic growth of Korea and Bangladesh, I expect the bilateral trade will further increase in the future.

However, diversifying trading items, in particular Bangladesh’s export items to Korea, is a major challenge both countries are tackling now. At present garments and textile account for 83% of Bangladesh’s export to Korea. Bangladesh should make full use of the duty-free and quota-free access to the Korean market which the Korean Government has accorded to Bangladesh since 2012.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: Since the independence of Bangladesh, Korea has become one of the largest development partners of the nation. How does H.E see these continued flow of aid and cooperation in the future based on our current economic growth?

Lee Jang-keun: Development cooperation is one of the areas where Korea places high priority in its relations with Bangladesh. As a country which could successfully develop its economy with the help of foreign donors, Korea wishes to share our knowledge and experience with other developing countries.

Bangladesh is currently the second largest recipient of Korea’s development assistance after Vietnam. So far Korea has provided 160 million US dollars in grants through KOICA, Korea’s development cooperation agency. Also, the Korean government has provided 1.34 billion US dollars in EDCF soft loans for 27 projects in various sectors, including public administration,  ICT, human resources development, transportation, water management, health and so on. The BSMMU Super Specialized Hospital which will be inaugurated soon is a prime project financed by the EDCF loan which  has a very low interest rate with a long repayment period.

Korea’s development assistance is expected to continuously increase in the future which will support various development projects of the Bangladesh Government and help the smooth transition of the country’s LDC graduation in 2026. Korea recently decided to significantly  increase the volume of its soft loan to Bangladesh from 700 million to 3 billion US dollars for  the period of 2021 and 2025.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: Earlier we heard that Korea wants to manufacture cars in Bangladesh as it considers the country an important destination for trade and investment. Any development in this regard?

Lee Jang-keun: As Bangladesh's economy keeps advancing, the automobile consumer market is also expanding. This means that Bangladesh is becoming an attractive market for Korean automakers.

At present, Hyundai Motors in partnership with a local Bangladesh company, Fair Technology, plans to assemble its automobile locally in Bangladesh. Fair Technology is setting up a manufacturing plant on 6 acres of land at Kaliakair Hi-Tech Park in Gazipur with technical assistance from Hyundai Motors. It is expected to start producing the Hyundai cars within the year.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: Do you have any plan for Bangladesh- Korea bilateral tourism development?

Lee Jang-keun: While there is no specific plan for bilateral projects in the tourism sector, my Embassy is making various efforts to increase people-to-people exchanges which include tourism. Last year in October my Embassy organized a Korean tourism exhibition in parallel with the Korean Film Festival at the National Museum of Bangladesh in Dhaka. Thousands of Bangladesh people participated and experienced a Korea tourism program prepared by the Embassy.

Also, we are making an effort to establish direct airline connections between the two countries. Currently chartered passenger flights operate between Dhaka and Incheon weekly. It first started carrying Koreans living in Bangladesh to Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 when international commercial airlines suspended operations. Now the chartered flight is carrying Bangladesh expatriate workers as well as students going to Korea.

On the other hand, the Bangladesh authority views Korea and Koreans as one of the potential tourists the country can attract. I understand that the number of Koreans arriving in Bangladesh has been among the top among the foreign tourists.

Korea and Bangladesh will celebrate together next year the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties. It will provide a meaningful momentum to boost tourism between the two countries and people.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen sought support from South Korea in sending back Rohingya people sheltered in Bangladesh. What is Seoul's view about this issue?

Lee Jang-keun: Korea has been supporting the Bangladesh government and international community for the early, safe, voluntary and orderly repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to their homeland which will be the only ultimate solution to the current international Rohingya refugee crisis.

To this end, the Korean Government has been providing humanitarian assistance for supporting the Bangladesh host community as well as the Rohingya refugees sheltered in Cox’s Bazar through international humanitarian agencies such as UNHCR, IOM, WFP, UNICEF and IFRC. Our annual contribution through these agencies is about 4 to 5 million US dollars. Korea also provided support for the refugees relocated to the Bashan Char last year.

Wishing that there will be substantial progress in the negotiations among the concerned countries, Korea will continue to support the efforts of the Bangladesh government and the international community for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: H.E, during a recent meeting with science and technology minister Yeafesh Osman handed over the MoU cross-signed by his Korean counterpart, minister Lim Heysook. What is the significance of this MoU, what is in it?

Lee Jang-keun: Korea and Bangladesh signed an MOU on Scientific and Technological Cooperation on 30 December, 2021. The MOU was to strengthen the implementation of the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the two Governments signed in May 1995.  It  has laid the institutional foundation to further promote cooperation in science and technology areas between the two governments by stipulating various areas and forms of cooperation including the establishment of a Joint Committee.

As one of the most advanced countries in science and technology areas across the globe, Korea is committed to enhancing scientific and technological collaboration with Bangladesh in areas of mutual benefit.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: Last year we heard that South Korea has expressed its keen interest to preserve the historic Panam City for the benefit of future generations and to attract tourists, built in Sonargaon in Narayanganj in the early nineteenth century, about 37 kilometres south of the capital city Dhaka. Any development on it?

Lee Jang-keun: In fact, it was not the Korean government but a Korean company which expressed its willingness  to contribute to the preservation of the historic Panam City. This Korean company, Youngone Corporation, which is operating the KEPZ, Korean Export Processing Zone, in Chattogram already initiated the restoration of the Baro Sadar Bari in Sonargaon next to the Panam City with its own financing.

My understanding of the current status of this idea of Panam City restoration is that it is not making progress due to the differences in the specific conditions of the restoration work between the Korean company and the Bangladesh government.

Ashrafuzzaman Uzzal: South Korea is still a dream destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers. Any plans or thoughts for Bangladeshi workers to get opportunities there?

Lee Jang-keun: The Korean Government has been recruiting unskilled foreign workers from 16 selected countries including Bangladesh through a program called Employment Permit System(EPS).

According to an MoU signed between the two governments in 2008, so far around 20,000 Bangladesh expatriate workers have been dispatched to Korea. The annual quota allocated to Bangladesh has been around 2,000. But this year it is expected that around 4,000 Bangladesh workers will be admitted to Korea which is a record high number. A total of 2,594 Bangladesh workers have been admitted to Korea between January and July 2022.

My Embassy is working closely with Bangladesh authorities not only to increase the number of workers but also to diversify the areas of employment including fisheries and agriculture.

Expatriate workers have been a central pillar of Korea-Bangladesh friendship and will continue to play an essential role in strengthening the friendly ties between our two countries.

Lee Jang-keun: Ambassador, Republic of Korea

Chef Santosh- Flavours of india at Amari Dhaka

Mansura chamily
Chef Santosh- Flavours of india at Amari Dhaka

Chef Santosh- Flavours of india at Amari Dhaka

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Experience the exotic flavours of India at Amari Dhaka. Mouth-watering delicacies will be prepared by Indian culinary maestro, Chef Santosh, at Amaya Food Gallery from 29 September to 5 October 2022.

This special promo will be held at the Amaya food gallery of the Amari Dhaka where guests will be presented with famous authentic Indian delicacies from Kashmir, Punjab, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Hyderabad, Goan and Kerala such as jodhpur pulao, laal mass, banjara chicken, maachli jaisamandi, jodhpuri vegetables, lakhnawi mutton briyani, kashmiri chicken pulao, maharashtra food, fish amrisari, palak saag, dal tadka, chicken masala bhat, mutton nu keeme, patra ni machchi, batata tomato nu saag, maratha chicken rice, mutton kolhapuri, fish koliwada, mangalore chicken briyani, nandan kozhi curry, malabar fish, mix veg poriyal, dum ka ghosht, fish masala, sabz handi, bombay chicken briyani, mutton kolhapuri, fish koliwada, kadi pakodi and many more. Every single day guests can enjoy different flavours of India.
The special buffet will be available during dinner only and is priced at Tk5499 NET per person. For the delectable buffet, guests will be able to avail of the Buy One Get Two (B1G2) offers from the selected bank cards. The other live kitchens will be also available throughout this festive period.
For dining, guests will have to make prior reservations by calling Amaya Food Gallery at 01777796444 or 01777796445.


Renaissance Décor introduces three new Italian Brands

News Desk,
photo: collected

photo: collected

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Renaissance Decor Limited launched three of the world’s renowned interior brands Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors, ETRO Home Interiors, and Gianfranco Ferré Home in Banani, Dhaka. Enrico Nunziata, Ambassador of Italy to Bangladesh inaugurated these brands on Saturday morning at Banani in the capital.

This new showroom of Renaissance Decor Limited is located in Level 5, Plot 76, Road 11, Banani.

The inauguration event was ordained by H.E. Enrico Nunziata, Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh as Chief Guest, along with Mr. Federico Brambilla and Mr. Roberto Curati, as Special Guests representing Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors, ETRO Home Interiors, and Gianfranco Ferré Home brands on behalf of ONIRO Group srl.

Enrico Nunziata, the Italian ambassador, stated during the chief guest's speech at the occasion, “It’s truly an honor and privilege to be part of this launching ceremony at Renaissance Decor Limited. The company made a remarkable journey in the last 8 years, bringing over 40 Italian manufacturers and brands to Bangladesh. Renaissance Decor has definitely created a world class stage in this showroom where a walk-in customer or even an architect will be mesmerized. Renaissance’s aspiration is to build the demand in the local market for high quality furniture. I am confident that a joint collaboration could start in the near future with various Italian companies. It would create new job opportunities and would increase export from Bangladesh of upscaled best designed furniture. With utmost pleasure, I announce the inauguration of the showroom and launching of Made in Italy brands: Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors, ETRO Home Interiors and Gianfranco Ferré Home in Bangladesh.”

Mr. Federico Brambilla, Special Guest of the event said, ““We are proud to be represented by Renaissance Decor as our official exclusive dealer in Bangladesh. We believe Renaissance’s strength lies in product knowledge and a management structure where the entire Sales and Design Team has the ability to offer interior design for home and commercial projects, according to the furniture and material selection that serves best the needs of their client. This allows a unique depth of vision. Which becomes a value.”

Mehreen Asaf, Managing Director, Renaissance Decor thanked all the clients and brand partners for their trust and support which enabled the company to keep evolving. She stated, “As a company we owe our success to our 50-member team and all gratitude to The Almighty. Our Sales and Design Team are continuously trained by our foreign brand partners in Bangladesh and abroad. We are specially blessed to have a team of young talented architects and managers who eagerly take the challenge of creating a lifestyle driven bespoke solution for space and interior design that exceeds clients’ expectations. We look forward to delighting our clients with end-to-end products and design services both home and abroad.”

Another Special guest Mr. Roberto Curati said about the event, “Over the last few years Renaissance Decor has demonstrated value and trust in our brand partnerships. We are confident in their ability to promote these world class, Made in Italy brands in Bangladesh. The arrival of these prestigious brands has enhanced Bangladesh’s image globally as an emerging market for fashion and design.”

The 17,000 sqft showroom display demonstrates installed products for clients and architects to walk into an imaginary lifestyle setting providing a unique and comely experience for the first time ever in Bangladesh.
Renaissance Decor offers complete interior design with product solution for every lifestyle. Product categories composed by 50+ brands include: Doors, Windows, Kitchen, Wardrobes, Bathroom Furniture, exterior and interior Surfaces for walls and floors, office and home Furniture, Outdoor Furniture, Lighting, Carpets, Architectural Wallpapers, Paneling, Marbles, Ceramics, Mosaic, Porcelain Stoneware, Home Linen and Textiles, Home Accessories and Ceramics. All brands work exclusively with Renaissance Decor for the territory of Bangladesh. The vast portfolio allows Renaissance Decor to be competitive and technically trained for complete project deployment.


Coastal salinity has a severe impact on agriculture

Pinky Akter
Coastal salinity has a severe impact on agriculture

Coastal salinity has a severe impact on agriculture

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Md: Abbas Uddin. Bholar is living in high fashion. According to family sources, his occupation is agricultural work. 52-year-old Solaiman Miah has been working in agriculture for about 32 years.

He cultivates paddy and various kinds of vegetables in his 2 acres of land. However, in recent years, his agricultural land has not yielded as expected. And this farmer blames the effect of climate change on less rain, and weather variation as the main reason.

Climate change has had a negative impact on agricultural land. Agriculture in saline areas is at grave risk. They are facing various problems including irrigation water.

Talk to more farmers in Charfashion. They said that this year's low rainfall has adversely affected production. There has been an increase in the number of insects on the land. Green leafhoppers eat rice chlorophyll. There may also be various crop diseases

But the bigger problem is salt water. which mixes with agricultural soil and destroys crops. Talked to Solaiman of the local farmers association. He said the arable land is becoming uncultivated due to the intensity of salinity. Yields are falling, crops are deepening economic wounds in coastal areas. Farmers said that they could not sow rice seeds on time due to the weather this year.

But the acute problem is that of irrigation water in the land. The decrease in the navigability of the rivers and the increase in the height of the salt water of the sea is due to the fact that the salt water of the sea is entering the agricultural land through tributaries from the river. In this area, it is not possible to irrigate the land from river or pond water in the coastal agricultural land, so the farmers have to irrigate the land by raising water through tube wells.

Farmers say that we used to irrigate the agricultural land by retaining the rainwater, but this year due to less rain, it will have a negative impact on paddy cultivation. In addition, due to less rain, irrigation will have to be done by extracting underground water, in this case, the production cost will also increase.

in this regard, Dr. Ainun Nishat, former vice-chancellor and climate expert of BRAC University, said that the situation is getting worse due to salinity. Farmers are unable to use surface water for irrigation, she further added that if the land is not made arable, it will affect people's life and ecology. Apart from this, salt water should be prevented from entering by constructing and rebuilding dams in this area. Integrated planning and its implementation are essential for overall development.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Arizona State University have conducted a study on the effects of climate change. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change under the title 'Coastal Climchange The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change under the title 'Coastal Climate Change, Soil Salinity and Human Migration in Bangladesh'. The researchers estimated that a moderate increase in salinity would reduce a farm's agricultural income by 21 percent annually. 40 percent of agricultural land in southern Bangladesh will be under serious threat.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Founder Director Professor Dr. M. Tofazzal Islam Shaheen said, due to climate change, the agriculture sector is suffering severe damage. Crop diseases are increasing. Day by day the underground water level is going down, rivers are drying up, and deserts have appeared in some areas. He also said that high yield is possible without water irrigation in agriculture. The problem of climate change is becoming more pronounced on the coast of Bangladesh. Due to saline water in agriculture, they are not able to provide artificial irrigation. He talks about the discovery of agricultural production with less irrigation. Besides, Tofazzal Islam also suggested developing new technology and increasing research in agriculture.

3,000 liters of water is required for the production of each kilogram of rice. Maize and wheat require one-tenth of water.

A study by the Soil Resources Research Institute (SRDI) has revealed that coastal districts are deprived of more than 3 million tonnes of foodgrain production every year due to salinity alone.

SRDI recently conducted a study to assess the impact of salinity on agriculture in coastal areas. It has emerged that salinity has a large negative impact on the overall socio-economic situation including food security in the southern part of the country. As the salinity increases, the activity of microorganisms in the soil of the coastal region is decreasing. At the same time, the availability of organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the soil is also decreasing. On the contrary, copper and zinc levels are increasing.

Ripon Kumar Mandal, Chairman of the Department of Agricultural Economics of Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University said, "we have started climate tolerant agricultural production. Various adaptations including aqua culture are being adopted on the coast.


Most of the female tea workers are at risk of reproductive health!

Pinky Akter
Most of the female tea workers are at risk of reproductive health!

Most of the female tea workers are at risk of reproductive health!

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35-year-old Geeta Kanu works in a Julekha Nagar tea plantation. For a long time, she has been suffering from various physical problems including itching in the uterus, severe pain in the lower abdomen, and white discharge. And to get rid of these, the doctor of the Upazila Health Complex has advised the use of sanitary pads along with medicines.

Geeta Kanu uses scraps of old sarees on her menstrual days. He has to work in the tea garden for eight to ten hours a day. And at this time, this woman cannot even change the piece of cloth used during menstruation. Even during menstruation, she has to hold her urine due to a lack of adequate sanitation system which is very harmful to her health.

Gita bathed in the water of the canal in the garden to reuse the used menstrual cloth. Again, many people wash their daily drinking water with the water of that canal, which environmentalists think is dangerous for human health as well as the environment.

About 400 other women workers work with Geeta in the Julekha Nagar tea garden. Most of the people I talk to are suffering from some kind of uterine problem.

According to the Bangladesh Tea Board and Tea Workers Union, there are a total of 256 tea gardens in the country. 92 tea gardens in the country are in the Moulvibazar district. 70% of the more than 122,000 tea workers working in the tea gardens are women. And in Srimangal, visiting a few gardens including Kharyaura, Hooglichra, and Lakhaibagan, you can see that there is no sanitation system for women workers. Nor is Bagan providing them with any health benefits during menstruation. Due to this most women are suffering from reproductive health problems.

Nigat Sadia Director of USHA has been working with garden workers for a long time.
Nigat said that in 2019, an NGO on women's reproductive health conducted a camp with 250 women in Khadim Nagar tea garden where 13 women were diagnosed with uterine cancer. Worryingly, there is no sanitization system to protect the reproductive health of these working women. He added, in some gardens, toilets are being used by both men and women. And still, most of the gardens do not have good toilet facilities, no pad or hygienic is provided by the garden during the monthly period. And it is impossible for them to buy pads with low income.

A survey found that almost all of the workers were suffering from various chronic illnesses. Fifty percent of them receive treatment at dispensaries, 20 percent at home or from Quakers, and 20 percent at government hospitals. In the case of women workers, they do not want to seek medical help due to taboos related to menstruation. And by the time they go to the doctor, their disease has progressed to a very serious stage. For this, it is necessary to check their reproductive health regularly, said Tamisra.