New Finnish Ambassador to Malaysia

His Excellency Lauri Korpinen came to Kuala Lumpur as the Finnish Ambassador to Malaysia in June last year, having previously been posted in Korea.
     “Malaysia is very beautiful” Lauri Korpinen says, “but just sometimes I wish it would be a little cooler here.”
     “Coming from Finland, I miss the seasons. I was fortunate enough to know quite a bit about the climate up front though, as I came here for the first time almost 25 years ago.”
     Kuala Lumpur is only Lauri Korpinen’s second posting as an ambassador – Korea was the first, for 4 years; but he is indeed a very experienced member of the diplomatic service in Finland. He has been posted all over the world, in Washington D.C., Warsaw, Ethiopia and Germany. In London he had a Minister’s post. In between he has served in several senior positions in the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki.
     His wife is of course accompanying him in KL, and they have a son and a daughter, both grown up and living in Finland, and both holding managerial jobs there.
     “Our son feels a little bit restless in Finland, but our daughter fortunately still feels that Finland is her home country, in spite of all our postings abroad over the years,” says Mr. Korpinen.
     His Excellency finds that both Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia have changed significantly from his first visits here 25 years ago.
     “Much more developed, much worse traffic, in a nutshell”, he smiles.
     The Malaysians are working very hard to achieve their Vision 2020, to be classified as a developed industrialized country within 2020, and he certainly believes they will make it.
     “Especially if they continue the liberalization of the economy they have already started, with cutting down on customs tariffs, subsidies and trying to avoid monopolies,” he adds.
     Mr. Korpinen’s background before he joined the Finnish diplomatic service seems very practical and much directed towards a lifetime in the service; with studies in international politics he is a Master of Science from the University of Helsinki. Somehow his professional life has been more connected to trade and trade politics, though. When asked about what he sees as his most important task as an ambassador to Malaysia, he promptly answers, “to help Finnish companies here in Malaysia!”
     Over 40 Finnish companies are present in Malaysia at the moment, with of course Nokia being the most well known. Other areas where Finnish companies are involved are IT (software), metal industry and paper manufacturing.
     The embassy reckons there are over 200 Finns living in Malaysia at the moment, but as it is not compulsory to register at the embassy, only highly advisable, they are not really sure about the correct number.
     “Please do register at the embassy when you arrive here in Malaysia”, he pleads. It would make life so much easier for all. In case something like a tsunami or an earthquake should occur we need to know about ALL Finns in Malaysia, so we can help. We never give this information out to anybody else, of course.
     Both politically and trade wise, the relationship between Finland and Malaysia is very good at the moment, and Mr. Korpinen really feels he can personally make a difference.
     “In Malaysia personal contacts are an extremely important part of business life”, he says.
     “Networking in the higher circles here is very much needed and much appreciated. You have to make friends first, and then maybe proceed to business.”
     Lauri Korpinen finds that his membership of Royal Selangor Golf Club is very useful in this respect; he and his wife are avid golfers.
     As of current plans, the embassy is setting up a Finnish trade delegation in autumn, in which over 20 Finnish companies will participate. Fortunately Finnish export agency Finpro and the Finnish Business Council in Malaysia will cooperate with the embassy to prepare for this important occasion.
     When asked how long he is going to stay in KL, His Excellency says he doesn’t quite know. An ambassador posting is not on fixed terms, but usually it will be 3-5 years. The Finnish diplomatic service also has a regulation that prohibits the ambassadors to have more than two subsequent postings, which means that after his two postings in Korea and Malaysia he will go home to Finland and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a year or more.
     When I suggest it to be something like a “cool-down”-period, he laughs and say “not quite.”
     “I hope to stay for a long period though, as I really like it here in Malaysia!”

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