By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
In a solemn ceremony at his Lomas de Chapultepec residence on Tuesday, May 29, South Korean Ambassador to Mexico Kim Sang-il presented former Mexican Ambassador to Korea José Luis Bernal Rodríguez with his country’s Grand Gwanghwa Medallion, the highest level of diplomatic service honor that the East Asian nation can bestow.
Bernal Rodríguez, who served as head of the Mexican diplomatic mission in Seoul from July 2013 to April 2017, is the second Mexican ambassador to receive this honor.
“During his stint as the highest representative of Mexico in Korea, Ambassador Bernal oversaw many important achievements, including the coordination of the 2016 visit Korea’s president to Mexico, the opening of the KIA Motors plant in Pesquería, Nuevo León, and the establishment of the first direct flight from Korea to Latin America (operated by AreoMéxico between Mexico City and Seoul),” Kim said during the ceremony.
Kim noted that, currently, South Korea is Mexico’s sixth-largest trade partner, with a combined bilateral commercial exchange of more than $15 billion annually, and there are more than 1,800 Korean companies with investment in Mexico.
“In order to further increase the commercial and economic ties that unite our countries, we humbly ask (for Ambassador Bernal Rodríguez) to use his highly valued support to intercede in favor of Korea’s candidacy for an associate membership in the Pacific Alliance (Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP-11) and to further unite our nations through the establishment of a bilateral free trade agreement,” he said.
A proposed free-trade accord has been stalled since its conception in 2012.
Bernal Rodríguez later pointed out that Korea and Mexico cooperate in a number of fields beyond the commercial and economic sectors, including politics, culture and technology, and within the context of a variety of international forums, such as the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the G-20, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and MIKTA (composed of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia).
Bernal Rodríguez said that Mexico and Korea will no doubt continue to broaden their bilateral and multilateral cooperation and will strengthen their strategic alliance in the years ahead for mutual benefit.
“As for myself, on receiving the honor of the Gwanghwa Medallion, I want to reaffirm my commitment and conviction to continue to do everything possible to fortify our two-way collaboration and friendship,” he said.