Sergiy Korsunsky, Ambassador of Ukraine to Japan: “Today 35 Japan universities opened their doors to Ukrainian students”

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky is one of the most experienced Ukrainian diplomats with an impressive background, a well-known expert on geopolitical issues, as well as innovations and education.

In May, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced double the financial aid for Ukraine to $600 million in support of the country badly damaged by Russia’s aggression. The government provides the additional $300 million through the World Bank to help Ukraine’s financial difficulties.

Japanese Rakuten (Viber) CEO Hiroshi Mikitani was one of the first global tech leaders to donate over 8 million dollars to support Ukraine after the full-scale invasion on the 24th of February. 98% Ukrainian smartphones have Viber installed; 295K users interact with Ukrainian chat-bot Diia in Viber every day.

We asked Mr. Korsunsky about Asia-Pacific priorities for Ukraine, support during the full-scale invasion by Japan, cooperation and partnership in tech and science spheres, and the future of Ukrainian innovations.

TechUkraine: With extensive professional experience worldwide (the USA, Turkey, Israel), during the last 2 years, you have been based in Tokyo as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Japan. What are the key priorities for Ukraine in the Asia-Pacific region, considering Japanese leadership in the hi-tech sphere?

Sergiy Korsunsky: Setting aside priority number one, which is securing Japan’s support to Ukraine in a war against Russia, it is the development of cooperation in academic and high-tech areas.

Japan is a well-known technology powerhouse, and we can learn many things from Japan.

At the same time, believe it or not, in some areas, particularly in the broad spectrum of IT applications, Ukraine is ahead of Japan.

In Japan, faxes are still in use, as well as landline phones and analog TV. The banking system and other services are not digitalized enough; they are very time and resource-consuming, unlike in Ukraine.

Last year ELEKS opened its office in Tokyo, and a three-day seminar was recently conducted with the participation of dozens of IT companies interested in developing cooperation. And we expect more Ukrainian IT companies in Japan soon. Many local companies employ Ukrainian software engineers.

But IT is not the only area. In dozens of Japanese universities, we have Ukrainian researchers in biotechnologies, new materials, space explorations, linguists, robotics, etc. Being a scientist myself in the past, I attach paramount importance to this area of cooperation.

TechUkraine: After the 24th of February, we are living in another geopolitical world. As a well-known expert on geopolitical issues, what do you think about the new approach in diplomacy after the full-scale invasion of russia?

Sergiy Korsunsky: Diplomacy now works 24/7. I would even say 48/7. The ultimate goal is to secure international support to Ukraine, particularly assistance with military and humanitarian supply.

What is new in modern diplomacy is the wide use of social networks, special instruments of critical analysis to fight disinformation, and special knowledge of technical things normally not attributed to career diplomats.

For example, suppose you need to explain why Russian troops in Zaporizhzhya NPP are a form of nuclear terrorism. In that case, you need to know about nuclear power plant operations, what a cooling pond is, and why spent fuel has to be cooled down before reprocessing. Similar things go to UNV technologies, drones, etc.

This war teaches us that a much more diversified range of skills and instruments is needed to fight against an overwhelming force of the enemy.

As well as a broad knowledge of economic, legal and even cultural peculiarities in the region the diplomat is posted on a necessity, not a whim. Many countries look at our war differently in Asia than in Europe or North America. You need to understand why it is so and how to connect the dots.

TechUkraine: From 2017-2020 you were the Director of the Hennadii Udovenko Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Recently, the European Commission announced opening a San Francisco office that will liaise with Silicon Valley companies affected by EU tech regulation. What do you think about tech and digital diplomacy in the VUCA world?

Sergiy Korsunsky: The world is now transitioning into new technology order with AI, Quantum computing, and data-based economies.

There is a clear fight between the desire of the IT business world to manage the new reality and the intention of the governments to regulate this process. Both sides have their own reasons. On the one hand, it is important to secure freedom of entrepreneurship; on the other – personal data use, sensitive information protection, and application of IT instruments for political manipulation must be regulated.

Approaching Multiverse should not mean chaos in virtual reality; DeepFake should not be allowed to flow unrestricted, so to say.

TechUkraine: In 2021, Japan and the USA reaffirmed the countries’ security alliance and focused on cooperation in several areas related to technology and innovation, such as the digital economy, 5G network infrastructure, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure resilience. According to the war in Ukraine, including the first global cyber war, and the expertise of our tech specialists, what do you think about cooperation with our countries in this spheres?

Sergiy Korsunsky: Partially I answered your question above. I can add that our partners in many countries have expressed huge interest in our experience in countering Russian propaganda and cybersecurity.

Russian hackers have attacked Ukraine for years, and we learned a lot about how to protect our Governmental services and business environment in this global cyber war.

I can tell you firsthand that both US and Japanese professionals admire our ability to maintain online banking services during the brutal war.

We now have much more knowledge as well about how 5G networks work in times of crisis and how to provide resilience to communication systems.

For example, it is essential to choose the equipment carefully. I mean, the country of equipment origin and the producer. It is a priceless experience for our partners.

TechUkraine: Being a Doctor of Science in Physics and Mathematics, headed Director-General of the Department for State Scientific and Technological Programs at the State Committee on Science and Technologies of Ukraine at the beginning of Ukrainian Independence in 1990th, what is the role of science and technology in strengthening cooperation between countries?

Sergiy Korsunsky: Science diplomacy is an indispensable part of the modern world. But there is a catch here. Some countries use science and technology-related partnerships for illegal obtaining of sensitive information. That means that before you enter into such alliances between states, the issues of intellectual property rights protection must be secured first.

One thing if you are a theoretician, as I was in my research many years ago, the other is if you deal with cutting-edge knowledge in terms of practical applications. But let me stress that liberty for a researcher to apply and receive support from any legal source, private or governmental funds must be secured as well as academic standards only should be applied for evaluation of the results.

In the Academia world, the less Government involvement, the better.

TechUkraine: What is your projection on the Ukrainian tech sphere and the potential for further fighting, defending, rebuilding, recovering, and developing the country during and after the war?

Sergiy Korsunsky: Two significant things happened in Ukraine in recent years.

The creation of the National Science Fund, and the other is the Ukrainian Startup Fund. This is how the tech world should work.

  • The first stage is a peer-review system for support of basic, so-called fundamental research,
  • and the second – is support for startups that can produce products.

Unfortunately, the war interrupted this process but did not stop people from exploring and creating. Many researchers found themselves abroad, and it is the government’s responsibility to attract them back.

I can tell you that before the war, only a few Ukrainian students were enrolled into universities in Japan as well a very limited number of researchers were employed here.

Today 35 universities opened their doors to Ukrainian graduate and post-graduate students, and the modest estimate is more than 200 of them.

This is a very important development since, in a year, we will have a solid base for contacts between Ukrainian and Japanese academics. The future is high-tech, digital, and ours if we catch the train of world development. Russia is trying to bring us back to the past, to times of autocracy and restrictions on freedoms. We will not allow this to happen.

But in considering the new future of Ukraine, we must strongly support the R&D sphere and invest in education and research facilities. War has taken so many lives of bright and talented Ukrainians, and this should not be in vain.

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