venerdì, giugno 03, 2005

Italy Contributes to Korea's Prosperity

The Korea Times, June 2, 2005
On its National Day, June 2, Italy celebrates the anniversary of the foundation of the republic, following the national referendum that took place on June 2, 1946. On that day, the Italian people, after the end of the Second World War, freely decided to end the monarchy and to establish a republic.
Two years later, in 1948, the present Italian constitution was adopted.

This constitution stresses the principles of equality, democracy and separation of powers, and lays the foundations of a parliamentary democracy based on the common acceptance of republican values by all the different parties of the political spectrum. This constitution has been the basis of the recent history of our country.

According to the institutional system laid down in the constitution, the president of the republic represents national unity and is elected for a period of seven years by the parliament at a majority of two thirds of its chambers: the low chamber (Chamber of Deputies) and the high chamber (Senate of the republic).

In May 1999, the parliament elected Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as the ninth president of the Italian Republic.

The government is led by the president of the Council of Ministers, who is nominated by the president of the republic after consultations with the political leaders of the parties. The president of the Council of Ministers is the expression of the coalition of parties that has the majority in the parliament.

The government must obtain the approval of both chambers of the parliament before receiving full powers. In the last general elections held in May 2001, a center-right coalition gained an overall majority, and therefore its leader, Silvio Berlusconi, was appointed as president of the Council of Ministers.

In the recent years, Italy has achieved a greater political stability than in the past, and thanks to this stability governments last longer.

The two main pillars of Italy¡¯s foreign policy are the membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, of which Italy is a founding member, and the integration in the European Union (EU) that has always been a priority for Italy.

Italy is one of the original founding states of the European Community that was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and evolved later into the EU and gave major contributions in devising and approving the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice.

The European Community was founded by Italy and other member states in the late 1950s in the belief that the process of European integration could foster peace, political stability, economic development, the principles of democracy and human rights. And so it was.

Ever since, Italy has been at the forefront of each and every step toward deeper integration in Europe. In 1999, it gave the birth, among other 12 EU Countries, to the European currency: the euro. The Euro is now one of the most stable and reliable currencies in the world.

The EU underwent two big changes in the recent years: the enlargement to 10 new members of Central and Eastern Europe and the signature of the new Constitutional Treaty, that Italy has already ratified.

This treaty is intended to increase the effectiveness of the EU and to strengthen its role in the world scenario through new sets of rules and decision-making procedures.

S. Korea-Italy Relations

Italy has traditionally been linked to the Republic of Korea by close relations of friendship and positive cooperation in the political, economic and cultural sectors.

In 2004, we celebrate the 120th year of diplomatic relations. Official state-to-state relations between our two countries started as early as 1884 and were resumed after the liberation of Korea in 1945.

Italy has been one of the first European countries to establish diplomatic relations with Korea which was known at the time as the ``Hermit Kingdom.¡¯¡¯ The first envoy nominated by the king of Italy as minister plenipotentiary to Korea, Ferdinando De Luca, took his functions in Seoul on April 5,1885.

Italy participated in the Korean War, albeit it was itself emerging out of the debris of the Second World War, with a field hospital which treated 17,000 patients during that war.

More recently, the excellent bilateral relations have been further deepened by the state visit paid by former President Kim Dae-jung to Italy in March 2000, the first time for a Korean head of state to come to our country.

During that occasion and in the following months, several agreements were signed in order to promote economic and industrial cooperation, tourism and social security for expatriate workers.

Italy is also very supportive of the engagement policy pursued by the Korean government towards Pyongyang and is following closely the developments in North Korea, its process of gradual opening and of dialogue with the Republic of Korea and the outside world.

In the framework of a close coordination with Seoul and European and Western partners, Italy launched a diplomatic initiative toward North Korea which led to the establishment of diplomatic relations in January 2000 and to the visit in March of that year of the Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini to Pyongyang. This was the first ever visit to North Korea by a G7 government¡¯s representative.

Following recent developments, we now hope that the six-party talks will soon resume and lead to a peaceful settlement of all open issues in the Korean Peninsula, so as to contribute to the stability of the entire Far East region.

Turning now to economic and commercial relations, the financial crisis in 1997-98 was a watershed. Italy contributed to the international efforts in support of Korea with the so-called ``line of second defense,¡¯¡¯ a fund put aside by several countries in the frame of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) policy to stabilize the Korean economy.

After the crisis and the rapid recovering of the Korean economy, bilateral trade flourished and passed from a low of $2.7 billion in 1998 to almost $6 billion in 2004.

Trade relations between Italy and Korea are going through a period of swift expansion and growth rates of imports and exports are often double-digit. Investments from one to the other country, which suffered from some years of stagnation, are now gradually improving.

Delegations of businessmen and public officials carry out an increasing number of visits to search for business opportunities, to participate to fairs and exhibitions and to establish links.

Although it is totally subjective, South Koreans often rank Italy in the first place as the most familiar country among all the European countries, since they notice a resemblance between their character and the Italian one.

Be it a geographic consequence (both countries are peninsulas), be it merely a coincidence, it is widely acknowledged that many South Koreans identify themselves with Italians.

This affinity also reflects in the economic side of our relations. In terms of bilateral trade, South Korea and Italy have been sharing a long history in such a wide and diversified way that its trade comprises more sectors than one might assume.

Fashion, food, wine, jewelry and interior design are usually the most ``Made in Italy¡¯¡¯ worldwide representative products, but among the most imported Italian products in South Korea in the year 2004, the machinery sector surprisingly was number one in ranking.

Economic Ties

The two economies (Italian and Korean) are more mutually supplementary than competitive in terms of both type of products and target markets. This aspect would imply a spontaneous tendency to try creating ways of cooperation not only at the manufacturing level but also at the distribution one, in order to share competitive advantages for the different markets that Italian and Korean companies target.

In 2004, the Italian and Korean trade exchange has increased in both ways. While Italian exports have increased of almost 5 percent with a value of $2.5 billion, Korean exports towards Italy registered an increase of 33 percent with a value of $3.4 billion over that of the previous year.

These figures show that Italy is more willing to open its market to South Korea in order to implement further this mutual exchange.

Among the different products imported from Italy, the food and wine sector presented a remarkable progress due to the Korean tendency to appreciate the Mediterranean diet and in particular the Italian cuisine.

Imports of wine increased by 12.4 percent in the 2004 and during the first quarter of the year 2005 wine imports increased by 42 percent. Imports of olive oil (described as ``healthy food¡¯¡¯ along with red wine, kimchi, green tea and garlic during the KBS program titled ``Secrets for longevity¡¯¡¯) registered an increase by above 80 percent in the 2004.

Similar increases were registered by balsamic vinegar (+16.5 percent), tomato sauce (+6.4 percent) and Italian coffee (+12 percent).

Finally, the Korean consumer has been learning in recent time to appreciate Italian cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan and so on: consequently, its imports have increased in 2004 by 44.2 percent.

The cultural and scientific cooperation between Italy and Korea is very rich in activities and events and encompasses a wide range of sectors _ music and opera, art exhibitions, scientific seminars, exchanges of students and researches.

The Italian Cultural Institute of Culture in Seoul is in charge of cultural and educational initiatives between the two country, while the Embassy of Italy in Seoul is the contact point and the engine for all scientific and technological cooperation initiatives among Universities and research Centers of Italy and Korea.

Two bilateral agreements, the first on cultural cooperation and the second one on scientific and technological cooperation, represent the framework for all the activities carried out in these two sectors.

The friendship and close links between Italy and Korea are getting always more tight and rich: our two countries are working together in this direction and thus contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous world to come.

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