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The time has come for Koreans to invest in Ukraine

Dec. 18, 2017 - 17:11 By Lee Yoon-joo
This article was contributed by the Embassy of Ukraine. – Ed.

What do Koreans know about Ukraine? Perhaps, some still remember a breathtaking triumph of a Ukrainian athlete Sehii Bubka at 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Those into football probably know Andrii Shevchenko, a “Golden Ball” winner and legendary striker for Milan and Chelsea. Some Koreans probably think of Ukraine as a mysterious country in Europe, with the most beautiful women in the world.

Of course, there is a lot more to Ukraine waiting for Korean people to discover. Take, for example, Ukrainians’ constant aspirations to reach far beyond Earth. Starting with George Gamow, born in Odesa, who proposed a physical model of the Universe origins known as the “Big Bang,” and continuing with a first turbo-jet engine that was developed by a Ukrainian scientist Arkhip Lyulka from Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

Ukraine has always been at the forefront of the world’s most cutting-edge airplane and space program efforts. Everyone in the world knows about a titanic Antonov‑225 Mriya airplane, originally developed for the space program. The airplane can lift record-breaking 253,800 kg and is nowadays used for super heavy cargo transportation.

Another Ukrainian who truly deserves recognition as a front-runner of human space exploration is Sergei Korolev. Born and grew up in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Korolev is sometimes referred to as the “father of modern astronautics.” He engineered and made possible the launch of the first satellite Sputnik, as well as the first human being in space.

Down on Earth, Ukrainians worked hard to advance humanity into technological era. Numerous fundamental discoveries in physics, mathematics, medicine, electronics have been made by Ukrainian scientists. Ukrainians have pioneered in computers industry, both hardware and software. MESM, the first computer in Europe, was built in Kyiv in 1948. As computers became more popular, Ukrainians made technology more accessible for people. For example, Ukrainian company PocketBook is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electronic readers based on the E Ink (“electronic paper”) technology. World-famous software companies, such as PayPal and WhatsApp, and many others, have Ukraine-born founders.

But what if we turn around, and explore what does an average Ukrainian know about Korea? One of Four Asian Tigers, the Miracle on Han River, the home of world-famous innovators such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and global events such as 2002 FIFA World Cup and Winter Olympics 2018. Perhaps, considering that Ukraine’s national football team did not qualify for 2018 FIFA World Cup, many Ukrainians will cheer for the Korean national team. Ukrainians welcome and enjoy Korean traditional culture, its food, music, fashion and architecture. Popular Korean restaurants in Kyiv serve authentic Korean food and drinks. K-Pop stars visit Kyiv for concerts, gathering huge crowds. Ukrainian TV channels broadcast Korean drama for Ukraine’s 45 million strong audience. Kyiv residents spend their weekends at a recently opened Korean traditional garden, immersing themselves into a Korean spirit.

Ukrainians know that the advances of Korean society are hard-earned. Thanks to the unbreakable spirit of the Korean people, the country could fight Japanese occupation and communists, rising from the ashes of Korean War into one of the most developed countries in the world. Ukrainian people can relate to Korea, because they also suffered from occupation by its powerful neighbor.

Korean media have echoed the news from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. The government of the Republic of Korea expressed serious concerns over these developments in Ukraine, and stated that Korea will not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea (2014.03.19 MOFA Spokesperson’s Statement on the Situation in Ukraine).

Clearly, in the age of information technology warfare, the so-called “hybrid wars,” it requires insurmountable amount of efforts and collective stand up to the aggressor. Take, for example, the spread of “fake news.”

Everybody knows that Yuzhnoye design office and Yuzhmash, world’s leading manufacturers of space rockets, are in a full compliance with the Missile Technology Control Regime. The companies have a long standing and well-documented history of directly supporting the US government efforts in non-proliferation since the 90’s. Also, the European Vega light-class launch vehicle was made in Ukraine, and was successfully launched from the Kourou Space Centre (French Guiana) on Aug. 2 delivering two satellites for the Israel Aerospace Industries into orbits. Since the Vega program began, Ukraine has helped deliver 25 satellites into space, for 19 customers. In fact, just on Nov. 12, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash helped launch a modernized launcher “Antares” from the Space Flight Facility on the Wallops Island, Virginia, successfully delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea was opened in Kyiv. Soon after, the Embassy of Ukraine began its activities in Seoul. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our states, we have made considerable efforts to build deep cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Air and Space

As already mentioned, Ukraine is famous for its aerospace engineering industry, as it possesses a full cycle of aerospace hardware engineering and production. At the same time, Korea aspires to become a space nation, and recently succeeded in its advance into space. In fact, Korea Aerospace Research Institute and Yuzhnoye design office have already cooperated on the launch services: From 2013-2015, Dnepr rockets successfully delivered Korean satellites to orbit.

Another legendary Ukrainian airspace company is Antonov. The company has designed over 100 passenger, cargo and special purpose airplanes, with over 22,000 of them used by 55 countries around the world. With more than 70 years of experience in airplane design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and even operation, it is ready to work with Korean partners to open a new era in aviation. Co-developing a brand-new NATO-compliant An-148 marine patrol airplane, and even delivery of super large cargo using record-breaking An-124 “Ruslan” and An-225 “Mriya” -- all of these opportunities are fully available to Korea. In addition, in order to fully replace Russia-produced parts of its An-148, An-158, An-132 and An-70 airplanes, Antonov is open to consider Korean-manufactured parts and systems for its products.

For over 70 years Ivchenko-Progress design bureau is developing and manufacturing aviation gas turbine engines for a wide range of purposes and applications, such as ground use or aviation. The scientific and technical potential and experimental research complex of Ivchenko-Progress SE allows developing turbo-jet engines of various types with a thrust of 500-50,000 kilonewtons and a power of 300-15,000 horsepower. The company is open to cooperation with Korean partners who are interested in turbine engines.


Ukraine has long been called the “breadbasket of Europe” for its fertile black soil, perfect climate and landscapes for agriculture. Korean companies are actively participating in development of Ukraine’s agricultural potential. For example, Posco Daewoo and the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food will jointly upgrade agricultural machines in Ukraine for small and medium farms. The company will also construct grain elevators in Ukrainian ports, as grain exports continue to be a very popular commodity in international markets. The potential of Ukraine’s agriculture, however, is far from being fulfilled, so Korean agritech and agriculture companies are more than welcome to explore possibilities in Ukraine and take advantage of world’s most fertile soils.


Korean companies are successfully developing and selling their products in Ukraine. For example, Samsung Electronics operates an R&D center that employs more than 1,000 Ukrainians. Ukraine, on the other hand, is a leading software engineering country, with total market value over $2 billion. Ukrainian software engineers are among the best in the world. This year, Korean National IT Promotion Agency selected Ukrainian-founded Cards out of over 1,500 worldwide for “K-Startup Grand Challenge 2017,” a governmental support program. Cards is developing “andCards,” a software service that helps foster networking culture and build community at coworking centers.

The time has never been better to invest into Ukraine, and to cooperate with the Ukrainian companies. Asian investors have already been actively investing into Ukraine. For example, Japanese electric equipment manufacturer Fujikura is already opening its second factory in Ukraine. Chinese construction companies are building ports and metro lines all around Ukraine. Various Chinese companies already invested over $7 billion into Ukraine.

Tempered by the past, both Korea and Ukraine are emerging as a new type of nations: more united, competitive and creative. Passionate about technology, and rooted into tradition, both countries can combine their best achievements of past and present to reach extraordinary heights. The time has come for Korean businesses and investments to come to Ukraine, to work with Ukraine, and to create new growth engines between our countries.