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Interview with top envoy
AU Supports Asian Candidate: Amb. Schoeman
Top S. African Envoy Has Strong Ties with FM Ban KM
S. African Ambassador to Seoul Stefanus J. Schoeman (left) talks with Chairman Yun Ik-Han of The Seoul Times during an interview held at the S. African Embassy in Seoul on April 26, 2006.

On the occasion of South Africa's Freedom Day celebration to be held at Shilla Hotel on April 29, 2006 Chairman Yun Ik-Han of The Seoul Times met with S. African Ambassador to Seoul Stefanus Johannes Schoeman for the talks ranging from trade, cultural, political and other bilateral issues to the meaning of the S. Africa's national day, plans to boost mutual ties, and personal hobbies.

During an hour-long meeting held at the African Embassy in Hannam- dong, Seoul on April 26, 2006, the S. African envoy showed a keen interest in supporting "an Asian candidate" in the forthcoming election for UN secretary general. He said that the 52 nations of African Union (AU) decided to support an Asian candidate in the election. In particular, Amb. Schoeman stressed his close ties with S. Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, a strong candidate for the UN's top post.

The followings are the questions and answers of the interview The Seoul Times had with Amb. Schoeman.

Q1: To start with, on behalf of all The Seoul Times staff and readers I would like to congratulate you on your celebration of the 12th Freedom Day. Could you explain about Freedom Day? Why is your Freedom Day important and meaningful to S. Africa and to the S. African people?

A1: For many decades there had been conflict and confrontation between the white minority regime and ANC. Our situation was more complex than the Korean Peninsula's. The majority of people did not have any say or vote. Violence ensued. But in 1994 President Nelson Mandela and his ANC party put an end to 300 years of chaos. We moved from conflict and confrontation to the national reconciliation on April 27, 1994. We call it not our national day but Freedom Day. On this day everybody in South Africa celebrates the freedom with joy.


S. African Ambassador to Seoul Stefanus J. Schoeman

Q2: Since S. Korea established diplomatic ties with S. Africa in 1992 mutual relations have developed a lot in various fields for each country. As an ambassador what would you like to do to further enhance overall bilateral relations?

A2: The future relations between South Africa and South Korea are very important. Actually, the mutual ties goes all the back to the Korean War (1950-53) when our country sent troops to fight side by side with US soldiers against Communist North Korean invaders. South Africa's 2nd Fighter Squadron was attached to the U.S. 18th Fighter Group. It provided close air support to U.N. forces. The South African squadron was called the "Flying Cheetahs." Since South Africa established diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1992, high-level political leaders exchanged visits to each country. The South Korea-South Africa Forum is also planned for later this year.

Q3: S. Africa is now S. Korea's biggest trading partner among the African nations whereas S. Korea is the fourth largest trading partner among the Asian countries, if I am not mistaken. What is the trade volume between the two nations? What are your plans for, or prospects of, further increasing bilateral trade?

A3: The bilateral trade volume reaches over 2 billion US dollars. In the year 2005 South Korea exported 1.3 billion US dollars worth of goods to our country whereas we exported to your country goods worth 1 billion US dollars. The trade imbalance is in the favor of South Korea. Such South Korean corporations as LG and Samsung are very well known in our nation.

Q4: A lot of South Korean students visit the US or Canada to study English. Compared with these countries what are some of the advantages of S. Africa for Korean students wanting to learn English? Do you have any plans to attract more Korean students to your country?

A4: Currently, about 400 South African teachers are in South Korea. Nine of them are involved in Seoul English Village. For Korean students who want to learn English, South Africa is a good destination. South Africa can provide not only more affordable education but also a more diverse cultural experience than other English-speaking countries. Our linguistic and ethnic diversity are recognized by the world. We have 11 official languages for example. South Africa is one of the best destinations for Korean students to grow as an international citizen in this global society.

Q5: What could be the ideal policy of the South Korean government for the unification of North and South Korea? What do you think is the most desirable attitude for South Korean people to have in aid of that goal? How soon do you think both Koreas could be peacefully reunified?

A5: It would be very arrogant for me to give advice for the North and South Korean issues including the ongoing Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program. All the countries have different situations. What I can say is that for both leaderships of North and South Korea a negotiated settlement is the only and the right way.

S. African Ambassador to Seoul Stefanus J. Schoeman

Q6: Although you haven't had enough time in Seoul perhaps, but what are the things that are most impressive to you? What was your biggest cultural faux-pas experience? What are the things that are most different from your own country?

A6: The difference in language and culture is huge between the two countries. My first language is Afrikaans. English is only my second language. We have as many as 11 official languages. Here in Korea I have already experienced language problems. In shops or supermarkets, everything is written in the Korean language. On the street, nearly all the signs including "Be Careful," and "Do Not Go There" are written in Korean. My main stumbling block is the language problem. Luckily, I like Korean galbi (rib). South African people love meat. My favorite Korean food is galbi.

Q7: You are known in South Korea as a big fan of golf. How often do you play golf and with whom? I also heard that before you began to play golf, you trained your body with such exercises as running, gymnastics, and rugby. What do golf and other exercises mean to you?

A7: I am a keen golfer. I was invited by local people to a golf gathering including a championship for foreign diplomatic people in Seoul. I won it. One of my hobbies is reading about and studying international politics. I am interested in what's happening around the world, which, of course, is part of my official duty.

Q8: Could you please tell me in detail about your family? Are they all here in Korea? What do they do? How are they adjusting to Korean life?

A8: I have been married to my wife Judith for 38 years. We met when we were university students. We have three children. My oldest son, who is 36 years old, works for the Ministry of Sports in South Africa. He and his wife have two boys. And my second oldest child is physiotherapist and she is married to a farmer. They have two lovely daughters. My youngest son is a graphic-designer. Unfortunately, they all live in South Africa. My wife lives here in Seoul with me.



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