Korea, Uganda agree to boost economic ties in summit

2013-05-30 20:22

President Park Geun-hye held summit talks with visiting Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and agreed on closer economic cooperation in a move to step up Korea’s advances into the continent with abundant resources. It was Park’s first summit talks at home since her inauguration.

Museveni arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day visit aimed to bolster bilateral cooperation and with particular interest in adopting Korea’s Saemaul Undong, a movement in the 1970s for rural revival initiated by former President Park Chung-hee, Park’s late father.

The two presidents congratulated each other on the 50th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties and shared views on ways to work together on widening exchanges of commerce, investment, energy and resources development, as well as in joining hands on the global stage such as the U.N.
President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during their summit at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

“I believe that Uganda’s remarkable growth symbolizes Africa as the new growth engine of the world economy in the 21st century,” Park said at the summit talks. “I was also delighted to hear that President Museveni often mentioned Korea as an example when commenting on the future blueprint for Uganda. It is hoped that our enthusiastic exchanges on such development experience can contribute to realizing your vision.”

Museveni thanked Park and invited her to come and visit Uganda, citing how he has become the first foreign president to visit Korea since Park took office.

After the talks, the two presidents oversaw the signing of an agreement on grant-type aid.

At the luncheon that followed, the two presidents expressed closeness between the two countries, with Park quoting a Ugandan proverb that meant “one by one make a bundle” as sharing the same spirit with Korea’s Saemaul Undong. She also praised Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, who won last year’s Olympic men’s marathon in London, and chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi as figures that represent Uganda’s strength.

“I trust that Uganda will become the breadbasket of East Africa if it succeeds in achieving systematic rural development through Saemaul Undong with its prosperous climate, rich soil and the national character of diligence,” Park said.

In response, Museveni explained how he had books written by Park’s father in his office and praised his accomplishments of pulling the country from poverty to industrial growth. He also recited a greeting in Korean that he said he had learnt from North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung.

Museveni, who came to power in 1986 and was reelected to the post four times, has shared ties with Pyongyang and had visited the North three times between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Cheong Wa Dae explained that inviting Uganda’s leader as the first state guest reflects Korea’s attention to the potential of Africa.

Next week, Park is to hold summit talks with President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.

“(Africa) is rising as our major cooperation partner as the massive treasure trove and the last remaining growth engine of the world,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.

“Uganda and Mozambique in particular are exemplary states that show political stability and rapid economic growth with many potential areas for cooperation such as energy and infrastructure.”

The government is taking steps for wider exchanges such as by planning to set up “K Plaza Center” to help support small and mid-sized businesses to advance into the resources-rich continent in conjunction with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Uganda became a leading resources power after the discovery of oil reserves in the country’s west. Korea and Uganda’s trade volume stands at $8.2 billion as of last year.

During his stay, Museveni planned visits to the state-run Rural Development Administration, the Korea Saemaul Undong Center and other industrial facilities, as well as a dinner reception with Korean business leaders.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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