By David Jones

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” 

Traditional Korean proverb

When footballer Ki Sung-Yueng arrives at the Liberty Stadium this weekend to set the seal on his transfer from Glasgow Celtic to Swansea City, he’ll be completing a journey of far more than a thousand miles.

Gwangju, his native city, is almost six thousand miles from his new home.  This talented young sportsman may well be the most high profile symbol of the links between Wales and Korea, but he’s certainly not the only one.

The University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, which works alongside Wolfestone to help students gain valuable employment experience, also enjoys strong links with several Korean Universities, allowing young people from both countries to share in each others’ rich and diverse cultures.   And when Korean scientists made plans for a national ecological institute, they drew inspiration from the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire.  A 2010 scientific visit to South Wales helped provide a platform for the “Eden Project of the South” in Seochon, designed to protect precious eco-systems.

Ki Sung-Yueng’s home city of Gwangju showcases the best of his country’s industry and culture.  The city has pioneered the use of solar energy for Korea, combining ethics and efficiency in a way that Wolfestone, a champion of eco-friendly trading, is delighted to see.  And Gwangju’s famous Culture Complex is home to art displays and musical performances from all over Asia.

The Welsh business community should take note that South Korea is a favoured destination for exporters of high quality plastics, chemicals and electronic equipment, and this is the perfect time to build relationships.  2011 saw the announcement of a free trade agreement between South Korea and the EU.  With no trade restrictions and a shared commitment to quality, our two countries have excellent grounds for partnership.  Wolfestone is proud to help clients localise their message through language and culture.  Our contact network stretches across all of Asia, and thriving cities such as Gwangju and Seoul are increasingly popular commercial targets.

As well as being the representative of a vibrant culture, Ki Sung-Yeung is of course a world class footballer.  His time in Glasgow has earned him honours including Scottish Cup Final Man of the Match and Korean Football Association Footballer of the Year, both for 2011. When he became available for transfer there was immediate interest from Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers.  Both have more money to spend than Swansea, and both can claim to be bigger clubs.  But are they better clubs?  Ask Ki Sung-Yeung.

Crossing the Severn Bridge will present no problems to a man born in the shadow of the far more intimidating dividing line between South and North Korea.  He can be assured of a very warm welcome when he crosses this particular border.

He could have gone to Liverpool.

He could have gone to London.

He’s coming to Swansea.

Good choice.

Welcome to Wales, Ki Sung-Yuen.  You’re going to like it here.

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