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Korea could assist SL to reach pinnacle of development – Ambassador Woonjin JEONG



By Lynn Ockersz

‘The time is right for Sri Lanka to change and take a leap to a higher level. Korea is the very country that can assist Sri Lanka to reach the pinnacle of national development and prosperity. Korea’s economic miracle, “The Miracle on the Han River” is a story of overcoming many hardships by the Korean people that led to Korea’s national transformation from poverty to prosperity. As a true friend, Korea would like to share the technological know-how and resources to help Sri Lanka to achieve “the Miracle on the Kelani River”, ambassador to the Republic of Korea in Sri Lanka Woonjin JEONG said.

Speaking to ‘The Island Financial Review’ recently in an exclusive interview ambassador JEONG also said that besides providing growing markets for Sri Lanka’s rubber, coconuts, graphite and apparels, among many other items, Korea-Sri Lanka tourism links are another area in bilateral economic ties that could be further developed. He said that 13,000 Koreans visited Sri Lanka last year. ‘But this is only 0.5 per cent of the total tourism in Korea.’

The interview:

In which broad directions do you hope to take Korea-SL ties?

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977, Korea and Sri Lanka have come a long way together to form a cordial bilateral partnership. We have been true friends to each other. Our relations have much potential to grow. 

Sri Lanka is not only one of Korea’s priority ODA cooperation partner countries, but also one of the top five countries that are benefitted from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of Korea. The sum of investment in various ODA projects and grants for Sri Lanka since 1987 is over one billion USD. The Sri Lanka office of KOICA has assisted and funded commercial and infrastructure projects of Sri Lanka in the various fields such as education, transportation, water resources, sanitation and regional development in Sri Lanka. 

The engagement in labour cooperation has also been impressive in recent years. 23,000 Sri Lankan employees are presently in Korea. Around 520 million US dollars were transmitted by them from Korea to Sri Lanka last year. They greatly contribute to the economic advancement of both countries. Since COVID-19 outbreak, the process of departure to Korea for employment has been suspended. However, it resumed last September and I invited the first batch of Sri Lankan migrant workers who were going to the Republic of Korea to express my appreciation for their contribution to uplift the economies of both countries.

Our cultural exchanges also have intensified over the years. The Korea Week 2020 was conducted virtually on digital platforms to provide an immersive experience of the Korean culture. I witnessed the enthusiasm and interest among the Sri Lankan participants. It is evident that our cultural bonds have grown stronger over the years.

I hope to further expand our economic ties, labour cooperation and cultural exchanges during my term as Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

What are the best investment opportunities for Korean corporates in SL?

Korea was Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign investor during the 1980s and early 90s. I believe that it is an opportune moment for Korea and Sri Lanka to revive investments, learn from each other’s experiences and intensify mutually beneficial trade and FDI. Sri Lanka is endowed with natural resources and high quality human resources which are very complimentary with the capital and technology of Korea.

The South Korean economy is the 10th largest in the world with a GDP of $1.6 billion; the exports have increased by 750 times between 1970 and 2018. Korea’s economic miracle, so called ‘The Miracle on Han River’ is a story of overcoming many hardships by the Korean people that led to the national transformation from poverty to prosperity. As a true friend, Korea would like to share the technological know-how and resources to help Sri Lanka achieve “the Miracle on Kelani River”. I can say that it is the right time for Sri Lanka to change and take a leap to a higher level. Korea is the very country that can assist Sri Lanka to reach the pinnacle of national development and prosperity.

I invite Korean investors to explore opportunities especially in the key sectors including agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, LNG, digital economy and so on. There is more potential for the business opportunities to expand between our two countries.

Likewise, what are the best opportunities for SL businesses in Korea?

Import and export relationship is also important as it is two wheels of the same vehicle. Sri Lanka is famous in Korea for rubber, coconut and graphite. Furthermore, apparel products including leather, fabric, and other agricultural items make a significant contribution to the Korean economy. I would also like to mention that Sri Lankan tea is very popular among Koreans for its high quality and distinct taste. 

Tourism is also another main aspect; 13,000 Koreans visited Sri Lanka last year. It is only 0.5% of the total tourism in Korea. I am confident that more tourists will arrive in Sri Lanka to enjoy the charm and beauty of the island as Sri Lanka was ranked as the top country to visit by the famous travel guidebook publisher,” Lonely Planet” in 2019.

How are Lankans in Korea contributing to Korea’s well being?

Approximately 23,000 Sri Lankan workers are employed in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). The proactive engagement of the EPS centre has led to the first delegation of migrant workers heading for Korea and it has strengthened the strong bilateral relations of the two countries amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Republic of Korea is maintaining a strong policy of equal pay for equal work which applies to both Korean nationals and foreign workers including Sri Lankan people. Sri Lankan migrant workers have contributed greatly to uplift both economies. I consider them as civilian diplomats on Korean soil and the Republic of Korea is appreciative of their precious contribution to the Korean economy.

I hope to expand the labour collaboration between our two countries. 

S. Korea is one of the most creative countries. What are the keys to her success?

The Republic of Korea witnessed economic growth with the sheer hard work and dedication of its people. With the limited territory and natural resources, Korea has focused on education and investment on people. The strength of world-renowned enterprises such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG also empowered the Korean economy. With the technological advancement, Korea is a major force in several fields including smart devices, automotive, shipbuilding, and heavy industries. However primary industries such as mass agricultural production also contributed to the economic success in Korea.

The Korean cultural renaissance including K-pop and K- dramas have become popular globally and have also contributed to the economy and helped attract more tourists. Korea would like to share the success stories with Sri Lanka as Korea developed with limited resources, limited workforce. As the ambassador to the Republic of Korea, I love Sri Lanka, I love Sri Lankan people. I look forward to closely working with all of you to achieve our common goals. Let’s stay strong together!


Sampath Bank continues to partner Central Bank on promoting QR payments




Sampath Bank PLC joined hands with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) yet again to raise awareness and increase acceptance and usage of LANKAQR, the common Quick Response (QR) code standard for the country that was introduced in 2020.

Encouraging consumers to adopt LANKAQR for their day to day transactions, Sampath Bank held a 2-day promotional drive at one of Colombo’s latest outdoor dining destinations, Dining Capsule at Baladaksha Mawatha, near Galle Face Green on the 23rd and 24th of January.

Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director – Payments and Settlements, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, took part in the ceremonial launch of this initiative together with other senior representatives.

The Bank offered 25% cash back on payments made with the LANKAQR-enabled Sampath WePay digital payments mobile application at Dunhinda Colombo, Roots, Grand Monarch, Street Wok, Lavinia, Spice Junction, Giovanni’s Pizza al Taglio and BoxBar outlets at the Dining Capsule during this period.

“Offering greater convenience and security, technology continues to transform the way we conduct our day to day transactions. This is becoming increasingly true in Sri Lanka too, where consumers and businesses are actively adopting digital payments,” said Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC. “At Sampath Bank we have always focused on leveraging emerging technologies and delivering market relevant solutions that add value to our customers around the island. In line with this, we are delighted to partner with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on driving the acceptance and usage of LANKAQR.”

“Across Sri Lanka, a growing number of merchants and consumers are getting on board the LANKAQR ecosystem and beginning to appreciate the value offered by QR based payments. We are witnessing this phenomenon with Sampath WePay, the secure, one stop digital wallet from Sampath Bank that allows users to store all types of financial instruments from any bank and carry out a wide range of real-time online transactions.

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Taking cashless transactions across the country




The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in coordination with leading financial institutions and telcos in the country set in motion the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ promotional campaign with a monumental event on January, 23. The ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ initiative represents the second phase of an island-wide campaign commenced late last year to introduce LANKAQR as the standard for mobile phone and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy society plus greater financial inclusion across Sri Lanka.

Held at Diyatha Uyana, Battaramulla, the event was graced by the Chief Guest, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ms. Yvette Fernando, Deputy Governor CBSL and the chairperson of the National Payments Council, D. Kumaratunge, Director Payments and Settlements – CBSL, and Thilak Piyadigama, chairman – CBSL appointed LANKAQR Committee/CEO SDB bank, among other distinguished guests.

The Colombo-leg of the LANKAQR national campaign, drawing on the participation of numerous high-profile guests plus the island’s top banks and financial institutions, aimed to advance the program’s overall vision of promoting digital transactions as the new norm and included city-wide promotions, covering major commercial locations in and around the city.

Developed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, LANKAQR is a common Quick Response (QR) code standard, and its adoption by most major financial institutions in Sri Lanka is a progressive step on the path to Sri Lankans fully embracing a future that is inevitably digital, gradually leading to an entirely cashless mode of transaction.

The LANKAQR system will allow banks, financial institutions and telcos, through their digital payment apps and platforms, to facilitate fast, secure and low cost digital payments to any merchant or service provider. LANKAQR provides customers with a mechanism for payment for all their needs ranging from groceries, healthcare to utilities, and even the purchase of goods from street-side vendors, directly from their bank account through the use of any LANKAQR-compliant mobile payment app.

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SLT-MOBITEL gives ‘Power to Your Dreams’ with special connectivity offers



SLT-MOBITEL is all set to launch the ‘Power to Your Dreams – සිහිනයට සවියක්’ campaign to provide the latest connectivity solutions to microbusinesses on the of January, 25 the company announced recently. This program will provide ICT solutions packages encompassing products and services essential for microbusinesses, at maximum affordability.

Understanding the connectivity needs of the microbusiness segment, the promotion provides them solutions that fulfil their requirements. Accordingly, communication, business networking, cloud technology, entertainment & IoT, communications devices and business infrastructure services for various market segments within the microbusiness ecosystem is provided utilising SLT-MOBITEL products and services such as voice & mobile telephony, 4G LTE, SLT Broadband, SLT Fibre and Peo TV services.

Speaking on the planned promotion, Sanjeewa Jayamaha, General Manager – SME Business Development, Sri Lanka Telecom stated, “Microbusinesses are the bedrock of Sri Lanka’s economic activity, supporting day to day transactions for millions of people. It is vitally important that they receive the full benefit of the connectivity solutions offered by the national ICT solutions provider, Sri Lankan Telecom. The brand unification of SLT-MOBITEL means now we can offer a full bouquet of products and services to our clients. This promotion will ensure that microbusinesses from various segments can now access the connectivity solutions most important for their businesses to thrive.”

Microbusinesses operating in entertainment and leisure, fashion and beauty, daily essentials, medical and health care, education, special occasion services, financial services, e-commerce and software development, professional services, construction support and transportation and delivery services will be able to benefit from bespoke packages crafted by SLT-MOBITEL with their specific industry needs taken into consideration.


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