The unification of the Korean Peninsula will be made possible when neighboring East Asian countries proceed with a mutual understanding of the impact of cooperation, says the EU’s top diplomat in Seoul.
“I would like to pass on the message that it is important to work together ... that’s missing in Northeast Asia,” EU Ambassador Michael Reiterer said in an interview with The Korea Herald in central Seoul last month.
“If Korea, Japan and China could work together in a similar manner as European states do, we would all be much better off and the Korean Peninsula would be united. The message ‘together we are stronger.’”
Reiterer assumed the ambassadorship in February 2017 and had previously served as EU ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
“The European Union has developed into a political force … and we would like to be global players like China, like the US, like Japan. But using completely different means. … We are working with arguments, underlining the rule of law,” he said, emphasizing the importance of dialogue in the East Asian region and peace on the peninsula.
The interview took place Oct. 29 at Tongin Market in the traditional Seocheon district, where signboards for local and foreign brands are displayed in Korean characters.
“I discovered it walking around. What I like to do, just walking around,” Reiterer said.
EU Ambassador to South Korea Michael Reiterer poses during an interview with The Korea Herald at the traditional Tongin Market in central Seoul on Oct 29. (Kim Bo-gyung/The Korea Herald)
“I like the approach to food, different kinds of food, which is much nicer than having one big chunk of food. It is a little bit of traditional way of selecting and sharing. … I appreciate (this) in the Korean cuisine.”
The top diplomat recently received a presidential award from his home country, Austria, called the Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver with Star for Services, in recognition of his extensive service.
Having started working for the EU in 1998, Reiterer will complete his 20-plus years of service as a career diplomat next year.
“Hopefully the European Union has been a little bit better known. … It’s not always about the job. One achievement was my daughter managed to come with us, as did my wife. … She has not suffered from changing all the time because that can be stressful for the partner; it can be stressful for a child,” he said.
In terms of the EU-Korea partnership, Reiterer said he hopes to see stronger cooperation in the defense sector.
“Korea is cooperating with us in safeguarding the sea lanes off the coast of Somalia. Because every trade between Asia and Europe passes there, so it’s a common interest. Once in a while we call the operation Atlanta. Korea sends frigate, which then works with European boats to secure sea lanes.”