Korea-Kenya Association: Bridging Korea Kenya relations.
Embassies, foreign cultural centers and trade agencies are known to be the primary facilitators of country to country bilateral engagements. In addition to these institutions, the diaspora communities have contributed too. Under their umbrella, exists a pool of associations that have actively shaped the different facets of diplomacy, be it streamlining bilateral commerce or cultural exchange. One in particular is the Korea-Kenya association. The association is based in Daegu and was founded by Mr. Philsoo Huh, a native ambitious businessman. He envisioned an association that would help promote business activities, cultural exchange and friendship between Korea and Kenya. That was back in 2014 and reflecting on this journey it is proper to say that that dream has come to pass.
The Korea-Kenya association and proportionately to Mr. Philsoo’s credit, has promoted the commercial and cultural engagements between the Kenyan Embassy, Kenyans and the Daegu area. A key region is Susseongu town which has worked with the Kenyan Embassy on a couple of areas. Mr. Philsoo has facilitated the signing of key MoUs between the two parties and that has gone to facilitate trade between Kenya and S. Korea. The group has organized and participated in events that have ended up shaping Korea and Kenya’s bilateral partnerships. These events have created platforms for networking and exchanging knowledge. One of these was the Daegu-Gyungbuk International Exchange Association (DGIEA) meeting that took place on the 18th of November 2016. The Korea-Kenya Association members, Korean friends and the Kenyan Embassy representatives gathered for an evening of friendship and robust discussions on cooperation.
Another success story, courtesy of the association, is the Kenya corner at Bomun library in Susseongu, Daegu. This is a dedicated section within the library that stocks artefacts, books, magazines, and reading materials on Kenya. Kenyan embassy donated majority of these books. The overarching goal for this was creating an avenue for Korean people to know more about Kenya, something that Mr. Philsoo Huh feels many are lacking. He points out that Kenya is an amazing country with great natural resources and promising investment opportunities but less know about this.
‘When I last went to Kenya I spent a night at Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel, went to Diani and played golf at Windsor Golf resort. When I came back and showed my friends some of the photos I took they were very surprised to learn that this was Kenya,’ said Mr. Philsoo as we sat down for a chat at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul. ’I’ve travelled to a lot of countries and I can confidently say that Kenya is among the amazing places I have been to.’
The Korea-Kenya Association began when H.E Amb Mohammed Gello had just been posted to S. Korea from U.A.E. A delegation of African Ambassadors to Korea had met at a forum and it is here he met Mr. Philsoo. The idea to partner with African countries for business came to Mr. Philsoo’s mind and it took shape when he got into a conversation with His Excellency Mohammed Gello. He would later gather other Korean professionals (with similar interests) and together they decided to focus on Kenya. The pool of professionals represented was quite diverse; lawyers, doctors, Judges, professors, painters, artists, business leaders and professors; brought together with the primary goal of strengthening relations between their country and Kenya, and exploring possible investment opportunities in the two countries. At that time, the Kenyan Ambassador and a few Kenyans were part of this group but later more Kenyans were invited to join. About 16 Kenyans are members now majority being students. .
The Kenyan students have benefited immensely from this association. Senior members have mentored them, specifically Mr. Philsoo Huh whose lead has been that of a father figure. He has held graduation ceremonies for some and gone forth to link them with relative industries. To bond, they occasionally meet for communal lunch or dinner. ‘The association has made my life in Korea easier and fulfilling. I can’t trade the experience for anything,’ confesses Ms. Valentine Wanjiku, an active member.
Photos: Courtesy of Mr. Philsoo Huh