A new direct flight between Budapest and Seoul will help to enhance the “success story” of Hungary-South cooperation, Péter Szijjártó, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said on Monday.
Addressing an event organised by South Korean flag carrier Korean Air, Szijjártó said the airline plans to operate the new service twice a week before expanding it to three flights a week next summer.
Korean Air will compete with LOT on the route, with the Polish airline currently operating twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays between Seoul and the Hungarian capital, also with Boeing 787s, according to the 2022/23 winter schedule and booking systems.
The Korean airline had already planned to start its Budapest flights in the summer 2020 schedule, but due to the epidemic it was postponed until the spring of the following year, but this was not realised.
Szijjártó also praised bilateral cooperation, noting that South Korean companies make up the third largest investor community in Hungary today. Bilateral trade turnover reached a record 5 billion US dollars last year, and was up 20 percent in the first half of this year, he added.
“We have but one opponent in this struggle, which is distance, given that our two capitals are more than 8,000 kilometres apart, but we can proudly say that today we’ve defeated even this opponent,” Szijjártó said.
The new flights are expected to increase tourism flows between the two countries, he said, noting that so far
this year, more than 22,000 South Korean tourists have spent over 100,000 guest nights in Hungary, representing a return to pre-pandemic levels.
He noted that South Korea was the top foreign investor in Hungary in both 2019 and 2021. The minister said it was clear that South Korea’s technologically advanced companies were discovering the opportunities offered by the Hungarian investment environment, which was crucial in order for Hungary to maintain its economic growth.
Moreover, these investments, Szijjártó said, were mainly focused on the automotive sector, which he said represented the backbone of the Hungarian economy. These investments, he added, allowed Hungary to become a global leader in the auto industry’s “electric revolution”.
“Our country is where German electric car production and Eastern electric battery production meet,” Szijjártó said.
The minister said Hungary was certain that the physical link between itself and South Korea becoming stronger would allow the two countries to “add another chapter to the book on the success story of their economic cooperation”.
Szijjártó also praised the Hungarian government’s Eastern Opening strategy as a “success story”, noting that Hungary’s overall trade turnover with countries to its east had increased by 49 percent since 2010, with its exports to the East having increased by 45 percent.