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Romania Observes Its Revolution Day Dec. 1
Amb. Arfeni Tells of its Meaning, Stresses Bilateral Ties
The Romanian Atheneum House in Bucharest

Romania will observe its National Day Dec. 1, 2004 in celebration of the day of 1918 Romanian Revolution when Romanians became a united nation in one single state. This year it will be more meaningful for Romanians in that its people are being called to the polls to elect a new president and a new parliament Nov. 28, 2004.

On the occasion of its largest holiday, Amb. Valeriu Arfeni of Romania to Seoul wrote a lengthy story for The Seoul Times readers to tell of the meaning and origin of its National Day and overall bilateral relations between South Korea and the Eastern European country. The top Romanian envoy is trying to bring closer the two nations by his contribution. Here is the personal message and story.

Brief Profile of Romania
Population: 22,3 million (July 2004)
Land area: 237,500 sq. km (arable land 41%)
Natural resources: petroleum (reserves declining), timber, natural gas, coal, iron ore, salt, arable land, hydropower
Monetary unit: leu — 31,000 lei per US dollar (2004)
Main export: machinery, textile, footwear, metal products, and minerals
GDP growth: 8.1% (2004)
GNP per capita: $7,000 (purchasing power parity, 2003)
Inflation: 15% (consumer price, 2003)
Unemployment rate: 7% (2003)
Export: textiles and footwear, metals and metal products, machinery and equipment, minerals and fuels, chemicals, agricultural products
Import: machinery and equipment, fuels and minerals, chemicals, textiles, basic metals, agricultural products

H.E. Mr. Valeriu Arfeni, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to the Republic of Korea

I am particularly honored by the invitation extended by this prestigious newspaper to share some remarks on the occasion of Romania's National Day, celebrated on December 1. On that day, in 1918, the Romanians became a united nation in one single unitary state. This year's celebration of the National Day has an additional, special meaning. Just few days before December 1, on November 28, the Romanians were called to the polls to elect a new president and a new parliament. It is another impetuous step to foster democracy and, in the same time, a sign a normality of contemporary political reality in Romania.

Similarities between Romania, Republic of Korea

When speaking of history, it is noteworthy that the Romanian and the Korean nations share a great deal of similarities, and I shall refer briefly only to the most important ones.

Romania has a long history. The ancestors of the contemporary Romanian, the Getae and Dacians, inhabited our territory long before the time of the Greek historian Herodotus who provides the first written account of their existence in the area.

By the middle of first century B.C. they created a kingdom strong enough to oppose Roman expansion in South-Eastern Europe. After two long wars, Romans succeeded to add to empire the last vast province. Concomitantly with the ethno-cultural Daco-Roman symbiosis, in the making of the Romanian people resulting in the 6th and 7th centuries, in the 1st and 4th centuries the Daco-Romans adopted Christianity in its Latin garb.

Streets in Bucharest in Romania

During the early Middle Ages, under inauspicious historical influence, our nation went divided into three different principalities: Walachia (the Southern principality), Moldavia (the Northeastern principality) and Transylvania (the Northwestern principality).

The quest for full national unity took form, for the first time, in 1600, when the three principalities united into a single country, under the rule of King Michael "The Brave." Unfortunately, the union did not last but for one year and the kingdom was dismantled. Many attempts to reunite the nation followed, but the first important step was achieved Jan. 24, 1859, when Walachia and Moldavia elected one and the same ruler, thus becoming one country named Romania.

Later on, at the end of the First World War, on Dec. 1, 1918, the Romanians in Transylvania, freed from the occupation of the late Habsburg Empire, claimed and accomplished their legitimate right to live in a single country, as one united nation with their Romanian brethren. In that memorable day Transylvania returned to the motherland Romania. The remembrance of these facts enables us, the Romanians, to understand in a deep and very special way the feelings of the Korean nation and its dream for peaceful unification. That is why, among other reasons, Romania fully supports the peaceful engagement and dialogue between North and South Korea.

The similarities between the Romanian and the Korean history do not stop here. As it happened to South Korea, Romania had to pay the price for the big powers strategic games. It was under such circumstances that on June 26, 1940, in the early stages of the Second World War, Romania had to give up, in favor of the former USSR, almost a quarter of its territory (Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina), under the provisions of the secret Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.

Later on, under the Vienna Diktat of Hitlers, Transylvania was ripped apart from Romania and forced into the hands of the Berlin Nazi regimes allies. While Transylvania was brought back to the motherland Oct. 25, 1944, Bessarabia remained incorporated in the former USSR and transformed into a new and artificial country: the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova.

Nowadays, the Romanian government recognizes the Republic of Moldova as an independent state, and we expect that fruitful and brotherhood cooperation will be developed in the future.

The same as the Koreans, again, the Romanians had the unfortunate destiny of living under dictatorship; however, the Communist dictatorship in Romania was tougher and more evil and destructive than our nation could stand. And, the same as the Koreans, the Romanians could not bear the burdens of dictatorship and had decided to remove it. The Romanians never believed in artificially imposed ideologies and their tormented history taught them to reject thoroughly any form of oppression. This is how, while reclaiming their national pride and dignity, the Romanians flooded the streets in December 1989 hunting down and removing once and for all the Communist dictatorship.

Again, the same as the Korean nation, the Romanians had to pay the supreme sacrifice while pursuing their long-lasting dream for freedom and democracy. Almost 2.000 people, many of them still young and enthusiastic, never had the chance to see their dreams accomplished and paid the supreme tribute.

Standing with Romanian President Iliescu, President George W. Bush waves to thousands of Romanians in Revolution Square in Bucharest, Romania, The square is the site of the 1989 revolt that toppled Communist rule and where the Romanian people denounced the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

It may take more time to describe at full extent all the similarities between our two nations and countries. I will only add that these similarities stand as a good and solid reason for the Romanians to support and understand better than one could expect the legitimate quest of the Korean nation for peaceful reconciliation and reunification.

Facts on Foreign Policy of Romania

The Romanian Revolution from Dec. 22, 1989, brought Romania back to the European family, to which it has always vividly belonged. During the last 15 years Romania consolidated its democracy based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and a functional market economy, while pursuing major reforms and transformations. In the recent years Romania proved its vocation of stability in a tormented geo-political region.

Romania formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, and that was an event with historical relevance for the Romanian people. Another fundamental strategic objective for Romania is the accession to the European Union (EU). In November this year, the rapporteur for Romania, Mr. Pierre Moscovici, assessed that the objective of quickly finalizing negotiations is realistic.

The mandate of elected member of the UN Security Council for a two years term, ending December 2005, entrusted Romania with great responsibilities in a very dynamic period. Romanias action in the Council is also inspired from its experience during the Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE in 2001. My country also draws on the expertise acquired through its participation in international peacekeeping operations, stabilization and reconstruction missions (Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Angola, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc).

Romanian soldiers celebrating the overthrow of Ceausescu

Romania is also engaged in a number of regional co-operation structures designed to deliver political, social and economic stability. Under the Romanian Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process, the first Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Bucharest, Oct. 21-22, 2004), expressed the necessity of shaping a brand new image for the Balkan region, by implementing the new concept of Central-South Europe, in terms of increasing stability, security and economic development.

Romania: An Active Partner of South Korea

In spite of the still young diplomatic relations Romania and South Korea normalized their ties in 1990 the political dialogue between Bucharest and Seoul, both under the bilateral and the multilateral framework is described by the highest ranking officials in the two countries as excellent. Romania and Korea follow the same objectives in terms of engaging world-wide efforts aimed at fostering international stability and security.

Romania and Korea are actively engaged in unfolding a privileged economic cooperation. Despite geographical distances, we expect that this years bilateral commercial exchanges will amount to approximately 400 million U.S. dollars, which means 10 percent more than 2003. The total amount of Korean investments in Romania exceeds 1 billion USD and is still increasing. 50 major joint projects are going on with the involvement of big Korean companies. I only have words of high appreciation regarding the positive offensive stance the Korean business community assumed towards Romania. I find it relevant to mention that all the major Korean companies such as Samsung, LG, KHNP, Daewoo, Hyundai, and etc. run large scale investment programs in major Romanian industrial branches like car manufacturing, shipbuilding, steel production and energy sector.

The Korean investments in Romania do not mean only financial inflows, but they also bring higher standards of professional discipline, innovation and skillfulness. It is our sincere and profound belief that we can make a better use of the advantages offered by the existence of the Joint Committee for Industrial Cooperation (set up in June this year between the respective Ministries of Trade and Industry), Romanian Korean Commission for Economic Cooperation, or the Joint Economic Committee (of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry).

It is under these circumstances that I size this opportunity to send a new invitation to the Korean business community to consider that Romania has had the highest growth rate during the last three years among the Central European countries, keeping a constant pace of over 5 percent annual growth. The new directions for the expansion of the bilateral cooperation may include the nuclear energy sector, alternative sources of energy, multimedia telecommunications products, or agriculture. Therefore, our country may be viewed as an emerging partner for Korean IT companies, software engineering, etc.

As a future member of EU, Romania provides foreign investors with an even more attractive trading and investment environment. The companies that are shifting their production capacities to Romania enjoy the benefits of security, low production and labor costs, skilled specialists and technicians, and export opportunities enhanced by the existence of Free Trade Agreements with 30 countries.

Last but not least, the market potential of the South Eastern Europe is indeed encouraging. The location of Romania right in the center of this area, with direct access to the Black Sea zone is consistent in itself. These are only some reasons to invite representatives of the Korean business community to further reflect upon the need to explore the economic opportunities offered by Romania, to actively engage in further creating joint-venture companies, and to use at its full extent the network of free trade agreements currently functioning in the region.

I am deeply impressed, on the other hand, with the increasing interest of the younger generations from our two countries towards acquiring a better mutual understanding of the peculiar values which may be shared and used to foster a more dynamic and profitable relationship in all fields. Suffice it to say that the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies runs the Department for Romanian Language and Culture, which provides training for almost 120 Korean students.

We are also proud to notice good results in the bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, arts, youth or sport. Significant are also the sistership relations established between municipalities from Romania and the Republic of Korea: Cluj-Napoca and Suwon are a standing example in this respect, and we have other similar projects under way. All these prove to be efficient prerequisites for future developments in the relations between Romania and the Republic of Korea.

Public Library in Bucharest

In the end, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and feelings of appreciation to the entire Korean nation and to the Government of the Republic of Korea for the warm and impressive hospitality they grant to all the Romanians here. Since the New Year approaches fast, I would like to dedicate my best thoughts and wishes of prosperity, peace and success to all your readers.






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