(Meet the Ambassador) S. Korea, Turkey set for high-level visits early next year to launch ‘mega projects’: Turkish envoy

SEOUL, South Korea and Turkey will exchange high-level visits early next year to discuss the launch of "mega projects" that will further advance their close bilateral ties, the Turkish ambassador to Seoul said.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Thursday, Ambassador Salih Murat Tamer stressed Turkey's deeply-rooted relations, pointing out the "bloodshed" ties between the two countries will never change regardless of any "government changes."

South Korea is one of only a few countries that Turkey considers a "friend, ally and brother," he said.

"And we have beginning of next year, we have very good visits -- high level visits -- coming up between Turkey and Korea," he said. "And they will be unfolding new projects ... mega projects will be unfolding."

The envoy said the upcoming mega projects, encompassing a wide range of fields, will be significantly beneficial for both Seoul and Ankara, though he declined to provide further details.

"The Korean side and Turkish side are working closely together for the visits," he said. "We have big dreams but our potential is even bigger than our dreams."

Turkish Ambassador to South Korea Salih Murat Tamer speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his embassy in Seoul on Nov. 2, 2023.

Tamer, who assumed the post in January, said that even before coming to Seoul, he was fond of the common phrase "blood brothers" to refer to the relations between the two countries that fought side by side against North Korea during the Korean War.

But it was only after a massive earthquake hit Turkey in February that the term truly resonated with him, seeing the support of the South Korean government and warm condolences of citizens in the aftermath of the tragedy, the envoy said.

"I realized that how deep affection the Korean people have for Turkey, from every walks of life, from the highest level from President Yoon (Suk Yeol) to the ordinary Korean citizens," he said.

Following the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey in February, South Korea sent hundreds of rescue and relief workers, delivered humanitarian aid to Turkey and built temporary settlements for the victims.

The two sides are discussing ways for South Korean firms to participate in the reconstruction work with their "great know-how" on building roads, buildings, electricity, pipeline and other things, he said.

On the recent Israel-Hamas war, the envoy said Turkey could play a role as a mediator being a unique country with contacts with both Israel and the militant group.

"Turkey is ready to be as a mediator but some countries, they don't want the ceasefire," he said, emphasizing that violence cannot solve the problem.

Turkey has acted as a key mediator between Russia and Ukraine since the full-scale invasion last year, and helped to broker a deal to safely ship Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea in July 2022.

"It shows how good Turkish foreign policy has been, so we can talk to all parties," he said. "We're not part of any bloodshed, but we just want to stop the bloodshed."

Turkish Ambassador to South Korea Salih Murat Tamer speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his embassy in Seoul on Nov. 2, 2023.

The envoy also said he hopes to work on further enhancing bilateral cooperation throughout the remainder of his term, including increasing the number of Turkish Airlines flights to Korea to boost tourism.

"I want to increase the number of Turkish Airlines flight to Korea for more than maybe 14, 15 (to allow) more Korean tourists visiting Turkey," he said.

Currently, Turkish Airlines operates 11 weekly flights between Seoul and Istanbul, he said.

He also voiced high hopes for more exchanges in the fields of trade, energy and defense, as well as an expansion of Korean investment in Turkey in artificial intelligence and IT.

"Our trade value reached $10 billion last year," he said. "During the pandemic, all commercial relation between the countries they went down but between Turkey and Korea, it didn't (go) down it increased and diversified."

South Korea and Turkey developed cooperative ties during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Turkey dispatched 15,000 troops, the fourth-largest contingent after the United States, Britain and Canada, to aid in South Korea's fight against the invading North.

The two countries celebrated their 66th year of diplomatic ties this year, though Tamer noted their history as "blood brothers" stretches far back to almost 1,500 years ago.

"We lived in the north of this area near China in Central Asia side by side, Turkish tribes and the Korean tribes for 1500 (years) ... we never fight each other, we always fight against common enemies," he said.

"You can call somebody an ally, a friend or a brother but all three, this is then diplomacy," he said. "Korea is among the very few countries that we can call a friend, an ally and a brother. This is how close our tie is."

Source: Yonhap News Agency