By: Monitoring Desk
The Embassy of Afghanistan in Seoul celebrated the country’s centenary of independence from Great Britain last week.
The celebration came in the lead-up to the Afghan presidential election on Sept. 28, which is being overshadowed by negotiations between the United States and the Taliban to end the 18-year war.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is seeking another term, promising peace amid fear that the possible withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces would embolden Taliban insurgents.
Against this backdrop, Afghan Ambassador to Korea Abdul Hakim Atarud sought enhanced cooperation with Seoul to help rebuild the war-torn country and emulate reform led by King Amanullah Khan after he declared independence on Aug. 19, 1919.
“Korea’s generous partnership and contributions alongside the international community for the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and collaboration in rural development projects, health, capacity building of civil servants and education are the key aspects of our partnership that has tangible impacts at the development of my country,” Ambassador Atarud said during a 100th anniversary reception at Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, Aug. 22.
He was joined by other foreign envoys in Seoul, the Korean foreign ministry’s Ambassador for Climate Change Yoo Yeon-chul and Head of Afghanistan Environment Protection Agency Shah Zaman Maiwandi.
Atarud listed assistance from Seoul, ranging from the presence of Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team, the medical services of the Korean Army hospital, a scholarship program, construction of dams, roads, and schools and the establishment of the Afghan-Korea Vocational Training Institute and Cultural Center.
“We remain grateful to the Republic of Korea for providing development assistance to Afghanistan,” he said.
The ambassador especially thanked Korea International Cooperation Agency, the foreign aid arm of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for coordinating assistance.
“I hope the times of hardship come to an end and my country overcomes all the problems with lasting peace, through elections as the accepted democratic platform of transferring power,” he added.
Terror-related news about Afghanistan usually makes news headlines in Korea.
But the country was once noted with reform under King Amanullah Khan, according to Atarud.
King Amanullah Khan as “a constitutional and dramatic reformist” established diplomatic relations with foreign powers, introduced programs aimed to modernizing and industrializing the economy.
Under the 1922 Constitution of Afghanistan, human rights and freedom were strongly respected, forced labor, torture and slavery were prohibited.
The equal right of education and freedom of press were preserved.
All ethnic groups in Afghanistan regardless of their religion, ethnicity and class were regarded the citizens and offered the freedom to execute their religious practices and became free to instruct their religious beliefs.
The ambassador underscored the Afghanistan-Korea relations date back centuries before diplomatic relations were established in 1973.
There is documented contact between the Afghan and Korean nations when Hui Chao, a Korean monk, passed through the Hindu Kush around 827 A.D., and found that the king of Bamiyan was a Buddhist with considerable power.
Today Afghanistan airs Korean dramas such as “Jumong.” Korea exports Samsung and LG products to the country, and a 2016 exhibition displaying 20th century B.C. artifacts from Afghanistan was held at the National Museum of Korea.
“The glorious history of Afghanistan as a crossroad of Asia is evidence that the Afghans are a peace-loving people, and art, music, sports, have profound roots in our culture and DNA,” the ambassador said.
Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, he said the government and people of Afghanistan “have been always supporting peace initiatives” and have hoped for “everlasting peace and security.”