By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Kevin Lee
Charge d’Affaires Nilanthi K. Pelawathathage of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Seoul said, “Sri Lanka maintains most affable and genial bilateral relations, in all spheres with the Republic of Korea not only since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977 but also since many decades ago.”
In a recent interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, CDA Pelawathathage said, “This was hinged mostly on trade, popularly known as ‘Silk Route’ since Sri Lanka is strategically located in the midst of Indian Ocean.’
On the same note, she added, most of the vessels of the ROK, both cargo and petroleum, pass the Southern region of Sri Lanka, thus manifesting the significance and vitality of the location of Sri Lanka to Korea.
In the minds of the majority of the Korean people, Sri Lanka is a viewed as the “Jewel of the Indian Ocean,” which houses eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and also commands a beautiful landscape.
The longstanding friendship between Korea and Sri Lanka, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea, was made official in the year 1977, when diplomatic relations between the two countries was established.
Since then, the two countries come a long way together and today they maintain a very cordial bilateral partnership based on mutual trust and respect, spanning diverse sectors including the political, social, economic, development cooperation and cultural fields.
In fact, the year 2017 marked a special milestone in the Korean-Sri Lankan relations as they celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations. Driven by this momentum, the Korean government is making strong efforts to strengthen future-oriented bilateral ties with Sri Lanka.
For example, Korean government chose Sri Lanka as one of Korea's priority ODA cooperation partner countries and Korea has been promoting various projects in the education, transportation, water resources, sanitation, and regional development fields in Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, Sri Lankan youth have shown great interest in working in Korea. A huge number of Sri Lankan people employed in Korea have contributed greatly to the economic advancement of both countries. They also play an important role in promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Details of the interview with CDA Pelawththage follow:
Question: Please introduce your view of the relations between Korea and Sri Lanka with special emphasis on cooperation and exchanges in the economic and commercial fields.
Answer: Sri Lanka maintains most affable and genial bilateral relations, in all spheres with the Republic of Korea (ROK) not only since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977 but also since many decades ago.
This was hinged mostly on trade, popularly known as “Silk Route” since Sri Lanka is strategically located in the midst of Indian Ocean. On the same note, most of the vessels of the ROK, both cargo and petroleum, pass the Southern region of Sri Lanka, thus manifesting the significance and vitality of the location of Sri Lanka to the ROK.
Sri Lanka is of strong and firm conviction that consistent, stable, predictable and congenial bilateral relations would always accrue tangible political and economic utility not only to Sri Lanka but also to the ROK as well.
It is noteworthy to indicate that the Korean language has been adopted as a subject for the University entrance since 2021 and in 2023, the University entering students will be able to sit for the Korean language as a foreign language at the entrance of Sri Lankan Universities.
This initiative could be considered as a very strong step of deepening bilateral relations by enhancing the people-to-people contacts of both countries.
In January 2022, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka undertook an official visit to the Republic of Korea as a major step of deepening bilateral relations between two countries. During the visit, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister paid courtesy calls on the high-level political figures in the Republic of Korea including the Prime Minister, Speaker of the National Assembly and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and had discussions on elevating bilateral relations in the economic, socio-cultural and political spheres in both countries.
Moreover, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea undertook an official visit to Sri Lanka in January 2022 under the invitation made by the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka with the purpose of deepening the relations between two parliaments of the Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka.
Both Sri Lanka and the ROK need to work together to identify various ways and means to further strengthen and elevate the trade and investment cooperation between the two countries. It is pertinent to explore the avenues to address the tariff and non-tariff barriers that may exist in order to increase the trade volumes between the two countries which were strongly discussed during the recent visit of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister to the Republic of Korea including the revision of protocols of the double taxation agreement between two countries.
Sri Lanka offers attractive incentives for the potential Korean investors. The Korean companies could utilize Sri Lanka’s strategic location to gain access to the most-populated South Asian market, emerging African markets as well as European Union market thorough the GSP Plus scheme. There is a vast potential to increase travel and tourism industry between the two countries considering the regular air connectivity and diverse travel experiences offered by both countries.
Overseas Development Assistance to Sri Lanka comprises a very important aspect of the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and the ROK. ROK’s ODA program has contributed towards Sri Lanka’s development process through loan assistance under the Economic Development Co-operation Fund (EDCF), and grant assistance via the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Moreover, Sri Lanka has become one of the countries among the 16 labor-sending countries to the ROK which is greatly important to both countries when it comes to bilateral economic relations.
Currently, the ROK has been considered as one of the lucrative and popular employment destinations of Sri Lankan youth where more than 20,000 Sri Lankans are being employed. The average contribution or the remittances from the migrant workers of Sri Lanka in the ROK is around 7.75% of the total foreign remittances or equivalent to 0.62% of the total GDP of Sri Lanka.
This year is also important for both countries as it marks the 45th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relations between two countries.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest?
A: The pharmaceutical sector is one of the most attractive sectors to invest in Sri Lanka with the experience of a significant growth over the last 5 years, in terms of export performance.
The current domestic market is over USD600 million, which is expected to reach a value of USD 750 million over the next two years. The local manufacturers only cater to 15% of this demand. As such, the Government of Sri Lanka is introducing a 400-acre pharmaceutical zone in Hambanthota with attractive incentives for the foreign investors including the investors from the Republic of Korea.
The next industrial sector is the electronic and electrical sector that the ROK has made a name for it. A range of products varying from complex high precision sensors to basic components such as switches and panel boards, with other sub sectors in between are being manufactured in Sri Lanka, currently. However, there are lot of space and opportunities for Korean investments in this sector in Sri Lanka with the high-level experience and expertise in the field.
Moreover, the apparel industry is one of Sri Lanka’s primary manufacturing industries. The industry has evolved to reach international heights as an ethically responsible, sustainable, ‘Guilt free’ apparel sourcing destination for international fashion brands during the four decades journey of the industry.
Speaking of the new additions, Smart apparel and Protective apparel is an area where there are new and emerging opportunities for Korean investors to capitalize in.
With the strategic location of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the country has a number of inbuilt strengths such as access to all subcontinental ports and global connectivity through South Asia’s only deep-water terminal. The cargo handling capacity of Sri Lanka is 8Mn TEU, with the capacity to grow up to 20Mn TEU with a quick turnaround time. Therefore, the logistics sector is one of the potential sectors that Korean companies could consider for their next investment choice of Sri Lanka.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: The ROK was the 28th largest export market for Sri Lanka and the 21st import partner of Sri Lanka in 2020. In the same year, Sri Lanka’s exports to the ROK were valued at USD71 million while the ROK had exported goods worth of USD194 million, resulting in a trade balance of USD123 million in favor of the ROK.
Apparel has emerged as the dominant export item from Sri Lanka to the ROK, while other major export items include apparel & clothing accessories, Cocopeat and coir products, activated carbon, rubber tires, and Ceylon tea. Sri Lanka’s major imports from the ROK include, iron or non-alloy steel products, synthetic rubber, petroleum oils, synthetic yarn and woven fabric, amongst others.
Q: Please introduce of the National Day of your esteemed country in full detail.
A: Sri Lanka marks the 74 years of independence on 4th February 2022. On 4th February 1948, Sri Lanka gained the internal political independence from the British rule.
Since the independence, even in the midst of number of challenges, the system of representative democracy based on universal suffrage has survived in the country as a nation with pride, in line with the freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country whilst strengthening the economic and political rights of all the citizens.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a rich, cosmopolitan heritage where different communities have peacefully co-existed over centuries. There is no civil unrest in the country. Sri Lanka has a long democratic tradition with strong institutions, and a vibrant civil society. Freedom of association and assembly are safeguarded with peaceful demonstrations occurring in Sri Lanka as in any other country where liberal democratic norms and traditions prevail.
As a result of free education and the health care system that Sri Lankans enjoy in the country since the independence, Sri Lanka indicates higher health and literacy indices compared to the countries in the region. The national day which is a public holiday in Sri Lanka is celebrated by the all Sri Lankans who are in Sri Lanka and around the world by hoisting the national flag in addition to dances, performances and parades.
Sri Lanka celebrates the 74th year of independence with a great hope of recovering from the current COVID-19 pandemic and move forward with the National Policy Framework, of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor to achieve the target of doubling the current GDP of Sri Lanka during this decade.
Sri Lanka has successfully overcome the immediate challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now in a state of normalcy with all public service, corporate and business, and education activities functioning normally without interruption, in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
The nationwide inoculation programme has been commended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and almost 90% of the eligible population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. A campaign has been launched to provide the booster dose to the population above 20 years of age.
It is important to note that even though Sri Lanka's economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is making every endeavor to reinvigorate its economy this year, through the implementation of prudent recovery policies.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: Despite the pandemic, Sri Lanka has received several international accolades in the tourism industry including CNN’s “Where to Travel in 2022”; the Global Wellness Institute; Conde Nast Traveler 2021 Reader's Choice Awards as well as other endorsements received previously in 2019 by Lonely Planet and the National Geographic Travel.
With 12 National Parks and 52 Sanctuaries that account for 12% of Sri Lanka’s land area, Sri Lanka is truly a startling multiplicity of physical features and wildlife. Each Park around the country is famous for various types of wildlife.
Yala National Park, the second largest in Sri Lanka, is believed to have the world’s highest concentration of leopards. When you feel like you want to see the majestic elephants, Udawalawe National Park and Minneriya National Park are the places to be, with the latter boasting of the famed ‘gathering’ by the water during the dry season.
Sri Lanka is considered as one of the best places for whale and dolphin watching. Blue whales, sperm whales, killer whales, pilot whales and dolphins, are often spotted in Mirissa on the South Coast, Kalpitiya on the North West Coast and Trincomalee on the East Coast.
The gentle swell of the Indian Ocean provides excellent opportunities for surfing, diving, jet skiing, sailing and numerous other water sports. Arugam Bay on the East Coast is a popular surf destination bringing in many pro-surfers from all parts of the world.
For the underwater explorer, Sri Lanka is also proud bearers of wide coral reef and vibrant aquamarine life, for a rewarding glimpse of the other side of life. Diving and snorkeling are most popular in many Southern Coastal areas, with Pigeon Island in Nilaveli (on the East Coast) offering some of the best aquatic sights to be discovered.
The most tourist-oriented festival is the Kandy Esala Perehera (parade)lasting over 10 days and climaxing on Esala Poya (late July to early August). As with the other parades, this too has the full entourage of entertainment with a majestic tusker carrying the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha for the people to venerate.
A traveler can explore the vast greens of the Victoria Golf Course and the rugged wilderness of Knuckles Mountain Range, both excellent views to take in after being in the bustling city of Kandy.
A short trip further up-country to the cool climes of the quaint city of Nuwara Eliya and its tea country, is where the tea bushes cover every hill and mountain surrounding the villages of people so humble and polite.
Furthermore, travelers could explore the desolate plateau of Horton Plains and all its inhabitants while indulging in breath-taking views of Baker’s Falls and World’s End.
Further inland travelers will need to stop by at the famous Nine Arch Bridge at Ella which is currently a popular ‘insta-worthy’ picture opportunity. Travelers also could take a hike through the mountain path to see the Ella Rock where the views are just striking.
The ancient secrets of the Ravana Ella Falls, the sacred pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak, the historical rock fortress of Sigiriya – a mysterious fortress that sheltered a King, from which the travelers could see the Mount Pidurangala and the dense jungles of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve are all exceptional scenic views.
With an astonishing eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites within its compact shores, Sri Lanka is indeed a marvel of wonders packed in a little island.
The city of Anuradhapura especially, passes as one of the grandest monastic cities in Asia established in the 4th Century BC with the arrival of Buddhism where the infamous ‘Sri Maha Bodhi Tree’ exists, grown from the original tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.
The most popular World Heritage Site and ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ Sigiriya, is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites of a stupendous rock fortress. It is covered with beautiful frescoes of celestial maidens earning it the description as the world’s largest picture gallery.
Resume of Charge d’Affaires of Sri Lanka in Seoul:
Name in Full: Pelawaththage Nilan Kumari
Date of Birth: 13th June 1985
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Currently, being employed as the Chargé d’ Affaires (a.i.) of the
Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Republic of Korea after being vacant the
position of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Korea from
October 2021. Attached to the Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Republic of
Korea as a diplomatic officer in the rank of First Secretary/ Head of
Chancery since 2018 with the in charge of mainly at the Consular and
Public Diplomacy Section of the Embassy.
2. Entered to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 2015 and attached to
several Divisions of the Foreign Ministry in Sri Lanka with the rank of
the Assistant Director.
1. Reading for a Master Degree in Public Policy at the Korea Development
Institute (KDI), Republic of Korea. (2020-up to date)
2. Earned a Master of Science Degree in Financial Mathematics at Faculty
of Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. (2010-2014)
3. Earned a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Statistics from the
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. (2005-2009)
Research and publications:
1. A Research on “An Analysis on Public debt issues in Sri Lanka since the
liberalization of its economy in 1977” for the fulfillment of the Degree
of Master in Public Policy at the KDI, Republic of Korea.
2. Published a paper on “An Empirical Investigation of Wagner’s Law in
Sri Lanka at the 10th International Conference on Business
Management in University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri Lanka.
3. A Research on “An Empirical Investigation of Wagner’s Law: The Case
of Sri Lanka” for the fulfillment of the Degree of Master of Science.
4. A Research on “The Effect of Gender on Micro-Enterprises
Performances” for the fulfillment of the Special Degree in Economics and Statistics.