Shown above is a festival in Bolivia. Photo courtesy of Bolivian Embassy in Seoul

Koreans invited to visit Bolivia

The Korea News Plus recently had an interview with Luis Pablo Ossio Bustillos, the chief of the Bolivian Embassy in Seoul on the occasion of the Bolivian Independence Day, which falls on August 6 this year. The following is the full text of the interview. _ ED.

Q: First of all, how are the policies of the Bolivia Government to protect pandemic spread in Bolivia soil and in particular for collaboration with Korea in relation to vaccine supply, booster shot and travel bubble exchange with Korea, to name just a few and last but not least how is Bolivia President Luis Arce’s priority to bolster relations with Korea since assuming office at the end of last year?

A: The President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Luis Arce Catacora, believes that if the coronavirus pandemic is not faced as a common block, as united countries, it will be very difficult for humanity to get out of this problem, in relation to the monopolization that some countries carry out with vaccines.

He said that, in addition, the world is going through problems regarding the manufacture of doses and the breach of contracts by pharmaceutical companies, situations that are added to the restrictions on exports that some producing countries put until the total immunization of their populations.

In this connection, Bolivia and the Republic of Korea supported the Covax system. Furthermore, Bolivia is also promoting vaccine patent liberalization as a way to make a further step in a global solution.

Bolivia also proposed a vaccine swap to the Government of South Korea, but we do understand that there is a need for vaccines here as well, and will wait until things get improved in Korea as president Moon Jae-in has stated, that this country will become a vaccine hub for the world.

Q: How are mutual exchanges in terms of non-governmental collaboration with Korea in the areas of travel, education, academics, music, to name just a few?

A: In the Republic of Korea, these mutual exchanges would be called public diplomacy. In Bolivia, it is known as the Diplomacy of the Peoples for Life which is a powerful tool to strengthen a bilateral relationship, and that is happening between both countries.

So, in each area that you just mention, there are important exchanges which, by the way, because of the pandemic somehow that has been stopped, but as soon as things get better, everything will start again as in the past.  

Q: Within the framework of the Latin American region, how are Bolivia’s role & responsibility to protect COVID-19 spread as well as to solve regional issues, including mutual collaboration with neighboring countries in relation to recent pandemic circumstances?

A: Bolivia undertook an international crusade to denounce the monopoly that few countries exercise in the acquisition of vaccines against COVID-19, which concentrates more than 80 percent of them in the hands of only a dozen nations, and which has left more than 60 countries without the possibility of acquiring even a single dose of the imminent.

In the meantime, Bolivia is also helping those countries that need more than us, such as Cuba, where we have sent an airplane with supplies to share the little that we have. Bolivia also has received important vaccine donations from governments such as Mexico and Argentina and, more recently, by the United States.

Q: As a test bed for attracting foreign investments into the region, how can Bolivia’s location & its geographic significance be explained in terms of its investment advantage for Korean investors who are eager to penetrate into the Latin American market in general?

A: Bolivia will use its natural resources for its own development in harmony with Mother Earth, better known in Korea as Mother Nature, which refers to put the limit to protect the Earth. Bolivia is eager to attract Korean investment as an equal counterpart. Not as it was the case before, the benefits were taken away.

The advantages are various but the most important is that Bolivian natural resources are huge and relatively easy to access and its location in the heart of South America can be used as a place of convergence and distribution.

Bolivia is a large country of 1,099,000 square kilometers. Its neighbors are Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay, and we can reach Uruguay by the Tamengo river.

Q: In terms of mutual complementary economic structure, how are the promising industry areas between the two countries as well as promising investment areas from the perspective of recent investment environment improvement in Bolivia?

A: The Republic of Korea has identified three sectors for its further development in the future. These are semiconductors, electric batteries, and biomedicine. The state of Bolivia owns the largest reserve of lithium.

There are also other rare minerals necessary for nanotechnology which only six countries in the world have, including South Korea.

The government in Bolivia is very strong now and controls the natural resources resulting from creating an opportune moment to talk about doing business in Bolivia, also considering that climate change makes changes more urgent than ever and a new pattern of development will prevail, which should be friendly with nature or what South Korea has denominated as a green economy.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

Q: How does Your Charge d’Affaires a.i assess desirable diplomatic development directions in terms of market potentials in Latin America in general and concretely speaking in terms of ODA (official development assistance) and regional development programs such as Saemaeul Movement from Korea etc.?

A: South Korea works first by helping other countries using its official development assistance as its own experience has taught its relevant institutions how to proceed, in particular with those poorer countries that are in most urgent need.

Then, once the assistance is given, then there is another kind of relation, which is a win-win situation for both Korea and the assisted country as the latter, with the own resources that given by Korea, can select Korean companies for further work in a given project.

So, the Korean legal framework obliges each company to win an open process under the supervision of a Korean semi-autonomous entity. In this way, the rigorous procedure optimizes the best result. 

In terms of regional development programs such as the Saemaeul Movement, I was told by a wonderful and very patriotic man from Korea, Chairman Thompson Park, that once Korea was a very poor country where most of its population were farmers.

At that time, through the Saemaeul Movement, the government promoted the mechanization of the farmers. In Bolivia, the poorest people are also the farmers who still use their hands to work the land. Chairman Park offered me to work with the Export-Import Bank of Korea to export small cheap cultivators for the Bolivian farmers.

I think this is a great idea, and before leaving this country, I would like to explore further this idea that implies community work as part of the holistic approach to development in harmony with nature. Further work will be needed in sharing this kind of paradigm that both countries share.

Q: Please touch upon travel spots in Bolivia for Korean tourists who are eager to explore Bolivia sooner or later by way of mutual travel bubble programs, etc.

A: Some travel spots in Bolivia for Korean Tourists who would benefit from a mutual bubble programs in the Plurinational State of Bolivia which is a country with 36 cultures and languages that is why it has been added to its original name, the words of plurinational, showing those many nations located in an area of more than one million square meters, rich in biodiversity, with unique landscapes and ancient history.

Bolivia has amazing archaeological, colonial, and natural places, which are also interesting and educational, and fun to explore. It is embraced by the Andes Mountains, which have in its midst volcanoes, deserts, lakes, forests, and its eternal snowed mountain.

Due to its geographical contrasts, Bolivia has diverse climates. In the Altiplano, it is cold and dry, in the valleys, the climate is warm, and in the topics, it is hot and humid. Bolivia is a country that is multi-ethnic and pluricultural. Hence it is rich in traditions and customs, and it has a great number of natural resources.

Uyuni Salt Lake is a natural wonder and one of the most surreal places in the world. In the rainy season, with a few centimeters of water on its surface, it becomes the largest mirror on the Earth, as was described by Neil Armstrong when he saw our planet from the Moon.

To feel like you are walking on clouds, to have the sensation you are in the sky, where the horizon has no end, where perspective and sight are lost in the infinity that is Uyuni where one can enjoy staying at hotels made from blocks of salt.

It is very important to state that the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized and registered, until now Six Cultural Heritage Sites of Humanity in Bolivia.  Some of the already internationally recognized places are as follows:

The city of Potosí; my father was born there in a small town, named Caiza D. the city of Potosi is where “La Casa de la Moneda” is the most visited place, wherein the XVI Century; silver coins were minted with the silver extracted from the Mountain Cerro Rico.

Tiwanaku, which is located in the Department of La Paz, near Titicaca Lake, is the spiritual, cultural, and political center of the enigmatic Tiwanacota Civilization, which is considered one of the most important and long-lived civilizations in South America. It is the archeological center of Pre-Inca culture, where all of its legacy and mythology have been left. 

All of its temples and palaces have been constructed in relation to the orientation of the stars with an exact reflection of the equinoxes and solstices that are essential to understand the universe.

The Puerta del Sol (Sun Door) and the Puerta de la Luna (Moon Door) in Tiwanaku are considered to be World Heritage by UNESCO of the United Nations due to their world vision and ancient past.

Samaipata Fort is located in the Department of Santa Cruz. A pre-Inca archeological site functioned as a ceremonial center. It is a gigantic sculptured rock with numerous engravings.

The Q’hapaq Ñan is an Andean Road System also known as “the Inca’s Path,” which is shared with Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It was built by Incas over several centuries to have a network facilitating communications.

Sucre City is also known as the city of the four names, “Charcas” (indigenous name), “La Plata” (The Silver), and “Ciudad Blanca” (White City). In this colonial city, you can visit “la Casa de la Libertad” (The House of Freedom) where the independence of Bolivia was signed.

The history of the Jesuitic Missions of Chiquitos goes back to the arrival of the Jesuit priests to the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1567.

Aiming to introduce the Christian values to the indigenous communities, the Jesuits taught them arts, such as painting, sculpture, music, and dancing.

There you can appreciate the Baroque music composed and performed at the Missions at the International Festival of Renaissance and American Baroque Music ‘Missions of Chiquitos’ that takes place every two years in this Bolivian area.

In addition, Bolivia also has four Intangible Heritage Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. They are as follows.

Oruro’s Carnival: Carnival Parade takes place every year in the city, Oruro, Bolivia, which lasts about 20 hours without interruption and runs 4 kilometers in a procession from the starting point to the “Socavón” Sanctuary.

Up to 30,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians divided into 150 bands perform a show with colorful dances, spreading the excitement of a grand feast to honor the Virgin of the “Socavón” (Mine), Saint Patroness of the miners, and Queen of the Bolivian Folklore.

The Kallawaya Cultural Worldview: The principal activity of the Kallawaya involves the practice of ancestral medical techniques. The various rites and ceremonies related to these techniques form the basis of their local economy. The Andean Cosmovision of the Kallawaya culture consists of a coherent body of myths, rituals, values and artistic expressions. Widely recognized not only in Bolivia but also in many other South American countries where Kallawaya is a doctor’s practice, the medical techniques are based on the belief systems of indigenous peoples of the Andean area.

Q: Last but not least, please state about your Charge d’Affaires a.i’s opinions with regard to Korea-Bolivia desirable cooperative industry projects in various industry areas and please touch upon front-runner companies which spearhead Korea-Bolivia industry partnerships in Bolivia soil currently.

A: Bolivia-Korea can jointly become the best partners. Both countries share so many things in common that you cannot even imagine. Come to see. I invite you to visit Bolivia, and I promise if I am already there, I will become your guide in reciprocity for what Korea has done for me while I was here.