President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone with President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of the Republic of Costa Rica for half an hour from 11:00 a.m. today. It was President Moon’s first telephone conversation with a foreign leader this year. Today’s phone call was arranged at Costa Rica’s request to discuss COVID-19 pandemic response-related collaboration and economic cooperation in such fields as the Green New Deal.
President Alvarado began by mentioning former President Roh Moo-hyun’s visit to Costa Rica in 2005. He said that President Roh was the last president of the Republic of Korea to visit Costa Rica. The President went on to say that it would be appreciated if President Moon could visit his country.
President Alvarado added that the Government of Costa Rica is consistently supporting President Moon’s Korean Peninsula peace process.
President Moon replied by saying, “I am especially grateful to you for remembering President Roh Moo-hyun.” He went on to congratulate Costa Rica on the bicentennial of its independence this year as well as it becoming the 38th member state of the OECD.
Referring to an address on state affairs in May last year where President Alvarado praised Korea’s anti-pandemic campaign and scientific and technological innovations in general, President Moon added, “I am grateful for you regarding Korea as a model country in the fight against COVID-19 and expressing the hope that Costa Rica will be known as the Korea of the Americas.”
The President went on to say, “I hope that the Korean Government’s humanitarian assistance and sharing of its experience in COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control have been of help to the Government and people of Costa Rica. Korea will continue to actively engage in international cooperation against COVID-19.”
President Alvarado expressed his gratitude, saying that the Korean Government has sent the world’s best epidemic prevention supplies.
The Korean Government has provided Costa Rica with KF-94 masks worth US$1 million and also shared know-how in epidemic prevention and control through video conferencing.
President Alvarado said that President Moon’s Green and Digital New Deal policies pursue the same goals and directions as those of his Government and raised the issue of Korean companies bidding for his country’s decarbonization-driven Greater Metropolitan Area Electric Train Project.
In addition to promoting the Greater Metropolitan Area Electric Train Project, the 2018-2050 National Decarbonization Plan put forth by President Alvarado includes such major policies as replacing fossil power generation with renewable energies and expanding the supply of electric vehicles. Total cost for the Train Project to reduce the amount of emissions is US$1.55 billion, and construction orders are scheduled to begin in the first half of this year. In preparation, the Korea National Railway, Hyundai Engineering and DOHWA Engineering have already formed a public-private consortium.
President Moon said, “If world-class Korean businesses can participate in the President’s actively pursued decarbonization project, it could create a turning point in our two countries’ relevant cooperation. Your continued interest and support would be appreciated.”
In addition, President Moon noted, “The United Nations and international community rate our e-government system among the best in the world. I know that the Costa Rican Government has recently begun pushing to establish an integrated digital finance and other systems with the aim of building a digital government.” President Moon asked President Alvarado to show interest so that the relevant know-how and technological prowess of the Korean Government and businesses can be shared.
With regard to the electric train project, President Alvarado said that he is grateful for President Moon’s interest in this important policy of Costa Rica. Noting that numerous Korean companies are well known for possessing excellent technology, the President said Costa Rica is looking forward to their participation. Afterwards, the President said he fully appreciates that Korea’s e-government is the best in the world and added that he would like to meet President Moon in person to discuss various pending issues and bilateral cooperation.
President Alvarado pointed out that in the first half of this year, Costa Rica is chair country for the Central American Integration System (SICA), which was established in 1991 to promote regional integration and economic development. He said Costa Rica can serve as a bridgehead to help Korea elicit projects with other Central American countries.
President Alvarado once more expressed his intention to invite President Moon to the SICA Summit, saying that he would be grateful if the Korean President could attend this important event in June.
President Moon expressed his profound gratitude for the repeated invitation, adding “It will be very meaningful if bilateral and Korea-SICA summits can be held in Costa Rica on the 30th anniversary of SICA’s foundation.”
In response, President Alvarado said that he is familiar with many popular Korean foods and liquors, mentioning soju.
President Alvarado said he hopes to have a chance to enjoy soju and kimchi in Costa Rica as soon as possible. He went on to say that he would prepare high-quality Costa Rican coffee as a gift. The President also said that Costa Ricans are avid K-pop and K-drama fans, citing BTS. He also explained how learning about “ppali ppali” (quickly quickly) culture is raising awareness of Korea in Costa Rica.
President Moon replied that “Costa Rica has long been a friendly nation that shares our key values such as democracy, human rights and peace. I hope that our two countries’ comprehensive cooperative partnership will be further deepened.” President Moon asked President Alvarado to attend the P4G Summit in Seoul in May.
President Alvarado said he is confident that Korea will hold the P4G Summit successfully, expressing his willingness to attend.
The two leaders agreed to communicate closely to expand and advance bilateral relations despite the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing their wish to jointly overcome the crisis soon.