30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors’ Eyes

30 years of Vietnam - the Republic of Korea relations through the eyes of former ambassadors

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The friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK) has developed at an unprecedented rate in the past 30 years. This is the assessment of the former ambassadors of Vietnam and RoK over the years, who have contributed to laying the foundation and cultivating the relationship between the two countries.

The warm affection of Koreans

30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Nguyen Phu Binh, the Vietnam’s first ambassador to the RoK. Source: KBS World

Nguyen Phu Binh, the Vietnam’s first ambassador to the RoK, still remember the first day he arrived in the land of kimchi 30 years ago to accept the position of head of the Vietnam representative office in the RoK. It was November 1992, when his family – including his wife and two young children – arrived at the airport and was warmly welcomed by the representative of the RoK’s Foreign Ministry. A press conference was held at the airport shortly after. Putting aside the initial surprise and worry, Binh answered the questions of Korean reporters fluently.

“I felt the warm affection and concern of journalists and people I came in contact with, including officials from the Foreign Ministry. At that time, Vietnam had no assets in the RoK, except for some houses left by the old Saigon regime. The Korean side helped repair the house so we could set up a liaison office in Hannam-dong,” said Binh.

30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam and Korean Foreign Minister Lee Sang-ok sign a Joint Statement to establish the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea in Hanoi on December 22, 1992. Photo: VNA

At the end of 1992, Binh presented his credentials to the Korean Foreign Minister Lee Sang-ok.

Lee stated that the country is ready to establish full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, although the two countries only established diplomatic relations at the liaison office level in April 1992.

In December 1992, FM Lee Sang-ok visited Vietnam and on December 22, 1992, the two countries established official diplomatic relations. Binh became the first ambassador of Vietnam to the RoK.

Two Korean diplomats who actively supported Nguyen Phu Binh in the early days of Vietnam setting up a liaison office in Korea were Kim Suk-woo, former Vice Minister of Unification, who then was head of the Asia Department; and Cho Won-il, former Ambassador of the RoK in Vietnam, who was head of Department of Economic Cooperation – Foreign Ministry.

According to Binh, in 1997, when he finished his term, Chol was appointed as the RoK’s Ambassador to Vietnam. The two friends continue to deepen their relationship both personally and contributing to the mutual relationship of the two countries.

Kim Suk-woo then became the secretary in charge of the reception of the Presidential Palace. He supported the Vietnamese side a lot, contributed to successful visits by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet in May 1993 and by General Secretary Do Muoi in April 1995.

30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
In 2001, during a visit to the Republic of Korea, Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong and RoK President Kim Dae-jung announce the establishment of a “Comprehensive Partnership in the 21st Century”. Photo: VNA

Having traveled to more than 60 countries, there is no place that makes Tran Trong Toan, the fifth ambassador of Vietnam to the RoK, feel the closeness and similarity with Vietnam as the East Asian country.

He said, the history of exchange between the Vietnamese and Korean peoples began more than 900 years ago, when the two Ly clans of Vietnam immigrated to Korea and became a community contributing to the protection and development of the country. The friendship between the two countries has continued to be consolidated in modern history with the close relationship between President Ho Chi Minh and Korean independence movement leader ‘Baekbeom’ Kim Gu since the two worked in China’s Chongqing in the 1930s.

“The similarity between Vietnam and Korea manifests itself in all aspects, from geography to history, culture, anthropology to the purpose of developing the country in the new era. It is these two things that have motivated the two countries. Within 30 years, the relations between the two countries has developed rapidly, surpassing everyone’s imagination,” said former Ambassador Tran Trong Toan.

Surprised at the development of Vietnam

Many former Korean diplomats also share the same feeling of surprise at the rapid development of Vietnam – RoK relations. Kim Suk-woo, former Vice Minister of Unification, shared, “Thirty years ago, many Korean business leaders told me that they think Vietnam will definitely develop rapidly. I have also expected and imagined your success, but when I set foot on this land today, I am still amazed at the brilliant development of Vietnam and the friendship between the two countries. That development has exceeded my imagination.”

“People still refer to the ‘Miracle on the Han River’ to talk about how the RoK has achieved economic growth at an unprecedented speed. I believe that the ‘miracle of the Red River’ will definitely come to Vietnam through the hard work of Vietnamese people. You are hard-working, diligent, wise, especially the strong will to rise up,” he stressed.

In 1997, Cho Won-il was appointed the RoK’s Ambassador to Vietnam. During his tenure, many Vietnamese people came to Korea to study and work, contributing to the economic, cultural and social development of Korea. Cho personally also actively promoted Korean businesses to invest in Vietnam.

30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Lee Jae-yong, executive chairman of Samsung Electronics, at the grand opening ceremony of the Samsung R&D Center in December 23, 2022. Photo: VNA

“With the efforts of all the ambassadors, many businesses have come to Vietnam and so far the number of Korean businesses operating in Vietnam has reached nearly 10,000. I am very happy when Samsung inaugurated thetheir latest Research and Development Centre (R&D) in Hanoi. Vietnam needs more such center to access advanced technology of leading industries, raise income for workers, develop business.”

Cho also hopes that the Korean government will continue to support Vietnamese people to come to Korea to study, work and exchange cultures so that the two countries’ relations will develop more and more.

30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Permanent member of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat Vo Van Thuong meets representatives of the RoK-Vietnam Friendship Association in Seoul on August 2, 2022. Photo: VNA
30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the RoK and Vietnam, the two countries’ flags were simultaneously raised at Namsan Tower in the RoK and high-rise buildings in Hanoi.
30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the Korean Cultural Centre in Vietnam jointly opened the “Korean Hall” at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Source: Korean Embassy in Vietnam
30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Performance of children at the year-end night of the Vietnamese-Korean multicultural families in Hanoi on the evening of December 17, 2022. Source: Korean Embassy in Vietnam
30 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Vietnam-RoK through Ambassadors' Eyes
Dinh Tha, a person of the Chut group in Arem village, Tan Trach commune, Bo Trach district, Quang Binh province receives an artificial arm under a Vietnam-RoK post-war bomb and landmine recovery project. Photo: VNA
Hannah Nguyen