Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Korea Dr. A. Saj U. Mendis had a meeting with the Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea Kim Jeongbae, who is the second highest political personality in the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. During the meeting, both the Vice Minister and the Ambassador discussed a multitude of issues ranging from sports such as Taekwondo, Cricket, Soccer, Athletics, Horse Racing and Motor Racing; tourism from the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka and vice-a-versa and cultural heritage of the two countries, amongst others. The meeting was arranged by the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sri Lanka Santhush Jeong Woonjin.
Whilst thanking the Vice Minister Jeongbae Ambassador Dr. Mendis stated that Taekwondo in particular as well as K-Pop, K-food, K-dance and K-dramas are becoming increasingly popular amongst the Sri Lankan populace. Both the Vice Minister Jeongbae and Ambassador Dr. Mendis agreed that K-Pop and K-movies could be telecasted on electronic media of Sri Lanka whilst Sri Lankan movies and tele dramas could be telecasted on the electronic media of the Roku, thus further enriching and evolving the cultural relations between the two countries. Ambassador added that both the countries are culturally and historically very well endowed with very long documented histories with majority of the peoples being Buddhists in both the countries.
Ambassador Dr. Mendis broached that in May of 2021, the famous Korean actress Lee Young-ae and her company signed a MoU with Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation to telecast the Korean tele drama titled “Saimdang” (Memoir of Colors). Both the Vice Minister and Ambassador added that the actress Lee Young-ae is very popular not only in Korea but in Sri Lanka as well.
Ambassador Dr. Mendis highlighted that tourism is one of the largest employers and industries in Sri Lanka as well as one of the highest foreign exchange earners of the country. Due to COVID pandemic, the tourism world over has been affected. In 2019, over 28 million Korean nationals have travelled out of the country but only 13,500 Korean nationals have travelled to Sri Lanka.
Ambassador Dr. Mendis added that the endeavor of the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the Sri Lanka Tourism and the Embassy is to attract not 1% of the Korean tourists but at least 0.5%. This number would translate to 140,000 Korean tourists to Sri Lanka or over 10-fold increase of the number of Korean tourists who visited Sri Lanka in 2019. In this context, Ambassador Dr. Mendis stated that Sri Lanka has been chosen in 2017 and 2018 as amongst the most desired and most sought after touristic destinations in the world by the “Lonely Planet”, “National Geographics”, ‘CNN’ and “BBC Good Foods” amongst others, thus making the country a “Mecca for Tourism”. Ambassador Dr. Mendis accentuated that Sri Lanka has some of the finest and most pristine beaches, tea gardens, scenic mountains and hill tops, fauna and flora, world class cuisine, outdoor sports activities and natural beauty as no other country as well as a number of UNESCO designated sites, amongst others. Both the Vice Minister and Ambassador agreed that with greater connectivity, tourism and cultural relations could be enhanced and aggrandized, thus mutually benefitting both the countries.
Ambassador Dr. Mendis stated that given the favorable climatic conditions throughout the year in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka could be a hub for international sporting activities and training for overseas sports personnel including from the Republic of Korea, which would further deepen and elevate the relations. Both the Vice Minister Jeongbae and Ambassador Dr. Mendis stated that the National Football Team of Sri Lanka would be in the Republic of Korea to play a number of Soccer matches including with the Republic of Korea on 9th of June 2021. The Vice Minister Jeongbae wished the Sri Lankan Soccer Team the very best. The highly focused and fruitful meeting ended with exchange of gifts, including Ceylon Tea which the Vice Minister Jeongbae stated that he loved the aroma of Sri Lankan Tea. Both agreed to cooperate and work together in order to strengthen the tapestry of sports, culture and tourism between the two countries since all three are intertwined and interwoven.