TODAY COSTA RICA (Korean Herald) Across serene and pacific Costa Rica, the military has long been a thing of a bygone era.
Costa Rica renounced its military in 1948, and has since spearheaded a path of peace and development in a region perennially engrossed in conflict and violence.
According to Costa Rican Ambassador to South Korea, Rodolfo Solano Quiros, the pursuit of pacifism and dialogue as a national strategy has enabled channeling resources to education, health care and the environment instead.
As Costa Rica and South Korea mark the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, the two countries can join hands in international cooperation and laws for global peace and security, the envoy said in an interview.
“We have only two armies to defend our right to live in peace and democracy — those of our teachers and diplomats,” Solanotold The Korea Herald last week. At a time of exacerbating tensions in and around the Korean Peninsula, “The perseverance of these common values will bring our nations closer together and forge new partnerships and collaboration in the future.”
“One of the key factors that make us the happiest nation on earth has been our decision to abolish our military, which undoubtedly facilitated our national development,” Solano stressed. “The money that would otherwise go to purchasing and maintaining weapons are redirected to causes promoting people’s prosperity. For three generations since the historic decision 68 years ago, our children have not seen a single Costa Rican soldier, warplane or combat tank on our land.”
Pointing to the popular expression “pura vida” — meaning “pure life” — Solano said his country’s people live the good life of enjoying hot springs, beaches, golf, ecotourism and various healthful outdoor activities.
“Our solidarity with our future generations also extends to our commitment to nature and sustainable development,” said the ambassador, adding Costa Rica has identified ecotourism as a vital means of increasing national wealth.
Turning to bilateral relations, Solano said the high point of the last 55 years of diplomacy was Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis’ visit to Korea in October last year, a visit that culminated in the Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation Partnership between the two countries, offering a road map to strengthen ties within bilateral and multilateral settings.
During the eighth ministerial meeting of the Forum for East Asia-Latin American Cooperation in Busan in late August, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez came to South Korea and reiterated the importance of revitalizing the interregional organization.
“Under the slogan ‘two regions, one vision,’ we are taking a leap forward toward the institution’s 20th anniversary in 2019, and working to create synergies among our members, international organizations and financial institutions,” the envoy explained. The FEALAC Fund has been launched, and various working groups are enhancing collaboration in politics, sustainable development, commerce, tourism, small and medium-sized enterprises, culture, youth, gender and sports, science and technology and education and innovation.
South Korea and Central American countries are also awaiting the formal signing of a free trade agreement after negotiations were completed on both sides. Following parliamentary or congressional ratifications, the deal will expand trade and investment manifold from current levels, the ambassador forecast.
In terms of bilateral commerce, trade between Costa Rica and South Korea reached nearly US$400 million last year, a 42% increase from the year before. Costa Rica exports to South Korea electrical components, biomedical devices and components, intellectual services, coffee, pineapples, bananas and other organically grown foods.