Interview with H.E. Omar Al-Nahar, Ambassador of Jordan to Korea

H.E. Omar Al-Nahar (left) and a scene from Misaeng (right).  Photo credit:  Joongang Ilbo and tvN

1. Would you please describe the business environment in Jordan for those who are not familiar with your culture?

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is where Europe, Asia and Africa converge. Our country blends the past, present and the future in a most wonderful fashion. Although we are an ancient land, through business we look to the future with an optimistic outlook; conservative and open all at the same time. 

We are a country that has grown into a modern nation that enjoys a remarkable measure of peace, stability and economic growth. This is down to having an enlightened Hashemite leadership that made investment in the individual and making a better way of life the number one priority. Jordan has access to 1 billion consumers across the world through its Free Trade Agreement, where investors can easily leverage the regulatory environment, qualified human capital, and trade agreements that we have to offer.

2. How much influence does religion have over the corporate environment?
As I mentioned, Jordan is an ancient land. It witnessed the birth of the three monotheistic religions. It is a significant part of the holy land for Jews, Christians and Muslims. 92 percent of our country is Muslim while 6 percent are Christians and all are working in unison in both the private and public sectors. Corporations are free to apply their own codes of ethics and conducts in accordance with the Jordanian labor law, which is a civil law. In the financial sector specifically, Jordan benefits from having a few banks that apply the Islamic finance system for those who prefer, rather than dealing with the commercial banks which are also there.

3. Does Jordan consider Korea as an active trading partner?
The Jordanian Korean relations have expanded at a rapid pace in all areas. Imports from Korea reached USD 1,383 million in 2014. Between 2006 and 2010, imports grew at an average annual rate of 12.45 percent, while exports grew at an annual rate of 11.1 percent compared to the previous four years. This shows that we understand each other and continue to expand our trade year on year. The main imported commodities were vehicles, electrical machinery and appliances, while the top exports were phosphates.

4. Do Korean dramas, including Misaeng, have a following or large fan base in Jordan?
Dubbed and translated Korean dramas enjoy large popularity, not only in Jordan, but in the region as a whole. The most famous drama to be aired so far is Jewel of the Palace. I guess Misaeng needs to be dubbed in Arabic before being aired in the area.

5. Has Misaeng led to an increase of Korean tourists visiting Jordan?
I believe it had an impact on raising awareness about Jordan and what the country has to offer to our Korean friends. I followed up on the cartoon and I am looking forward to part II that is due to be released soon.

6. Do you think the sharing of cultural assets, such as Korean dramas, can help boost business between the two countries in the future?
Everything helps. The domestic and international media tend to cover news that is seemingly of interest according to what they think their viewers and readers like to see. Culture, especially in the connected world of today, is both global and human. Given the time, we need to enjoy, reflect and realize that we have more in common that what first meets the eye.

*Interview by Matthew Fennell, Asia Society Korea Center's Contributing Writer.