Vice President for Projects and Regional Coordination of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Sungho Choi is currently in Nepal to assess the progress of projects run by KOICA, and forge new strategies for the development cooperation with Nepal. Choi spoke to Republica about KOICA activities and future plan for cooperation in Nepal. Excerpts:
Republica: What brings you here in Nepal this time?
Choi: This is my first visit to Nepal. The purpose of my visit this time is to identify what we are doing in Nepal. First I would like to check if there are any problems in implementation of our projects. Also in 2018 we are doing pre-feasibility study for our candidate projects. Firstly, I would like to hold an official meeting with your government, especially the ministry of finance, and the customs authorities. Secondly, I will sign record of discussion of project on Kathmandu Research and Development Center. Thirdly, I would like to check all the projects we are doing in Nepal.
Republica: Is KOICA planning to increase its engagements in Nepal in the near future?
Choi: I think we are spending yearly average of US$ 14 million in assistance in Nepal. Nepal is an important partner country. So, the Korean government and KOICA will gradually increase the volume of ODA by 2020. Nepal is our important partner country, so we will increase the ODA volume.
Republica: You have a large number of Nepali workers already. Around 40,000 Nepali workers are currently working there. Is that number likely to increase further?
Choi: Nepali workers in Korea and any human resources is not KOICA’s concern. It is actually the concern of the Ministry of Labor of Korean government and Embassy of Korea in different countries. But indirectly we support occasional trainings, and transfer of skills to Nepali people. Hopefully, the number of Nepali workers in Korea will increase in future. We can work together to increase income level of people, and ensure prosperity of Nepal.
Republica: What are the key challenges that KOICA sees in implementing the projects in Nepal?
Choi: This is my first visit to Nepal. I have yet to learn many things. However, the physical circumstances in Nepal naturally pose challenge for us. Sometimes political environment, such as blockade last year, also creates problems in implementing our projects. At the same time there are government-related issues. We need cooperation and positive attitude from the government side to expedite the projects. Regardless, we have a very good partnership with Nepal. We appreciate the cooperation extended by the government agencies.
Republica: What are the areas of cooperation that KOICA is currently involved in Nepal?
Choi: The Korean government has developed a country partnership strategy in close consultation with Nepal government. Currently, our focus areas are education, healthcare and regional development. We are also involved in technology transfer in the field of agriculture.
Republica: Do you also have a program to impart trainings to Nepali youths?
Choi: Yes. We are doing invitational trainings annually. A total of 150 government officials and technicians visit Korea to receive the training.
Republica: What do you hope to see when you visit Nepal next time?
Choi: This time, if time allows, I would like to visit Lumbini, where we did the feasibility study and prepared the Master Plan of the Lumbini project. One of the important sources of revenue of Nepal is tourism. Threfore, my important concern is the development of tourism in Nepal.