The relationship between South Korea and Bangladesh has been broadened and getting deeper especially in labor cooperation. They both have a great labor pool, and are cooperating to bring out the best in both countries. Bangladesh’s population of 152 million includes a large numbr of skilled workers in sectors that Korea also has as strengths, and the Korean businesses expanding to the country are finding a fertile workforce. BusinessKorea interviewed Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Korea, Md. Enamul Kabir to hear about the two countries’ historic ties as well as the future directions that they are headed together.
Would you take this opportunity to explain the significance of Bangladesh Independence Day, March 26?
The 26th of March is a glorious day in our national life. The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh at the first hour of the 26th of March, 1971, after the occupation forces launched a sudden attack on innocent and unarmed Bangalees on the black night of the 25th. This day marks the beginning of a bloody 9-month-long war and sacrifices made by the people of all walks of life, through which the nation achieved its independence. The day therefore remains a symbol of unity and resilience of the Nation and its firm stance against repression. Every year, on this day, we renew our pledges to leave behind any social and political division and build a happy and prosperous Bangladesh.
Please brief us on the history of diplomatic and economic relations between Bangladesh and Korea.
Korea recognized Bangladesh in May 1972, within six months of our victory in the War of Independence. Formal diplomatic relations between Korea and Bangladesh were established the following year. Since then, our two countries enjoyed excellent bilateral relations. Both countries share common democratic values. Our bilateral relations are shaped primarily by political goodwill, economic, and commercial interests. Every year visits of a good number of delegations are exchanged.
The visit of the Honorble Prime Minister of Bangladesh H.E. Sheikh Hasina to Korea in 2010 at the invitation of the Korean President demonstrates the warmth that exists in the relationship between the two countries.
Bilaterally, our two countries maintain strong cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, development cooperation and technology transfer, employment and human resource development, education and cultural exchange. Trade volume has been growing gradually and is now nearing US$2 billion annually. After becoming an aid-giving country, Korea gradually emerged as an important development partner of Bangladesh. Korea supports our development initiatives in fields like telecommunications, energy, transportation, education, and HR development. People-to-people contact has been increasing exponentially. Bangladesh, as you may know, is a partner country of Korea’s Employment Permit System, and a good number of Bangladeshi workers are now working in Korean SMEs. More than 500 Bangladeshi students and researchers are now studying in various Korean universities and research centers.
Please tell us of your point of view on what industrial sectors would be the most promising ones for Korean companies to cooperate with Bangladesh as an investor in the near future.
Bangladesh is strategically located for global trade with access to international sea and air routes, and is endowed with an abundant supply of the key factors of production, like a hardworking workforce, natural gas, sweet water, fertile land, favorable climate, and social tranquility.
Bangladesh offers a large domestic market of about 152 million people with purchasing power continuously growing due to continuous and accelerating growth in national income. Apart from the local market, most Bangladeshi products enjoy duty and quota-free access to the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other developed countries.
According to a recent comparative study conducted by the Bangladesh Board of Investment and JETRO on the Cost of Doing Business between the competing locations, Bangladesh is one of the most competitive locations, in many indicators, among the ASEAN, Far Eastern, and South Asian countries. There are lucrative incentives for foreign investors like 100 percent ownership, tax and duty exemptions. The FDI-friendly index in the World Bank’s report, “Investing Across Borders (IAB) 2010” covering 87 countries, lists Bangladesh as one of the most convenient destinations for FDI for its investment-friendly facilities and regulations. Bangladesh has a unique combination of its competitive business-friendly environment and cost structure that can give an investor the best returns.
Considering the high potential, Goldman Sachs branded Bangladesh as one of the “Next 11” countries after BRIC.
The scope for profitable investment in Bangladesh is enormous, and the list of potential sectors for Korean investment can be quite long. I mention a few of the sectors that Korean investors should keep their eyes on for tapping the opportunity: the high-end ready-made garments sector, textile and home textiles, active pharmaceuticals ingredient and radio pharmaceuticals industry, ICT products & ICT-based services, shipbuilding, environmentally-friendly ship breaking industry, agro-based industry/ food processing industry, frozen fish industry, jute-based industry, leather industry, PPP-based large infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, township, ICT infrastructure etc) projects, renewable energy sector (solar power, windmills), tourism and hospitality sector, polymermaking industry, hospitals and clinics, automobiles, electrical home appliances, and the light engineering industry.
Please introduce outstanding Korean companies’ activities in Bangladesh.
Hundreds of joint ventures or full ownership Korean firms are operating outside Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Bangladesh. More than 80 Korean companies have set up their operations units in EPZs in Bangladesh as well. These companies are operating in the sectors like ready-made garments, textiles, glass and ceramic, leather garments and footwear, RMG accessories, chemical products, electronics, IT, and construction materials, and creating employment for our people.
The largest of the Korean Investors in Bangladesh is Youngone Corporation. It is operating in Chittagong EPZ in the fields of RMG, RMG accessories, footwear, and leather goods, and is employing almost 50,000 people. Apart from that, Youngone is trusted with developing a private export-processing zone, the first of its kind, in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Dada Ltd., Pacific Zipper, and the HHH accessories industries are few too many to mention.
Samsung Electronics has established a research center in Bangladesh where several hundred engineers and researchers are working. Samsung reportedly has a plan to establish a factory in Bangladesh to produce electronic goods in the near future.
The presence of Korean companies in the construction and infrastructure sector is also noticeable. Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. constructed the 4.8 km-long Bangabandhu Bridge on the Jamuna river, which is the largest bridge in Bangladesh. Two Korean companies, along with one Chinese firm, are on the short list for the construction of the even longer 6.15 km bridge over the River Padma. Korean companies are actively participating in power generation and transmission projects as well.
Please introduce Bangladesh tourist attractions for Korean tourists.
Bangladesh has a host of tourist treasures to offer to international tourists – beaches, lakes, rivers, hills, forests, wildlife, our way of life, tribal life, archaeological remains including historical monuments, folklore, religious and cultural heritage, handicrafts, and much more. All these combined are enormous tourist products for international tourists and if properly exploited can fetch the country its due share of the ever-expanding global tourist trade.
Cox’s Bazar is the tourist capital of Bangladesh, where miles of golden sands, towering cliffs, surfing waves, colorful pagodas, and delightful seafood bring tourists year-round. Located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh by the Bay of Bengal, this is world’s longest unbroken beach, stretching up to 120 km. The largest mangrove forest on earth and the home of the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger - the Sundarbans – is a major eco-tourism attraction of Bangladesh. About 6000 of deltaic swamp along the coastal belt of Khulna, the Sundarbans is also the natural habitat of spotted deer, crocodiles, monkeys, cheetahs, pythons, wild boars, hyenas, and many different species of colorful birds.
Archaeological sites are in no dearth of supply, either. There are ruins of Buddhist monasteries dating back to the 3rd century B.C. at sites like Mahasthangar, Paharpur, and Mainamatai, which are of enormous interest to archaeologists, historical enthusiasts and cultural and educational tourists alike. Dhaka has a number of buildings from the Mughal and British periods. Similarly, some old mosques like the Satgambuj mosque of Bagerhat and some old Hindu temples like the Kantaji’s Mandir deserve mention.