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Lee’s Africa trip to boost ties, Olympic bid

President Lee Myung-bak on Saturday will depart for Durban, South Africa, the first leg of his weeklong tour of three African nations to support PyeongChang’s Olympic bid and strengthen economic ties. Lee will also visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia before returning home on July 11.

Lee is scheduled to arrive in Durban Saturday evening where he will have four days to promote PyeongChang before the International Olympics Committee announces on July 6 the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. PyeongChang is vying neck-and-neck with Germany’s Munich and France’s Annecy.

“The most important purpose of the president’s South Africa visit is to support PyeongChang’s Olympic bid, but it also is meaningful in terms of bolstering bilateral relations,” a high-ranking presidential aide told reporters.

“His trip will help us contribute towards African economies’ self-powered growth and secure bases for our businesses to expand in Africa.”

Lee is slated to speak during the Korean team’s final presentation to IOC members on July 6 about the Korean government’s commitment and plans to support PyeongChang if the city gets to host the Olympic Games.

Lee will also hold summit talks with South African President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma in Durban to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation for nuclear energy and mineral resource development, as well as expansion of trade and investment.

Lee will exchange views on global issues such as the G20, climate change and development cooperation with Zuma, who is arbitrating in the Libyan crisis as representative of the African Union, Cheong Wa Dae said. South Africa is a member of the G20.

After spending five nights in Durban, Lee will fly to the DR Congolese capital of Kinshasa in return for President Joseph Kabila’s Seoul visit in March last year. It will be the first visit to DR Congo by a Korean president ever since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1963.

During summit talks with Kabila on Thursday, Lee plans to discuss the development of energy resources, infrastructure construction, development aid and agricultural cooperation.

Lee will also attend a business forum in DR Congo to meet business leaders from Korea and the central African country.

DR Congo is the third largest country in Africa in area terms, which once boasted a thriving mining sector with its rich mineral resources.

In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the last destination of Lee’s African tour, the president is scheduled to hold summit talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Friday to share Korea’s green growth strategy, development experience and exchange views on development of natural resources.

On Saturday, Lee will offer flowers at the monument for Korean War veterans in Ethiopia, give a speech at the Addis Ababa University, attend a Korea-Ethiopia business forum, as well as visiting hospitals and having dinner with Korean volunteers working in them.

Lee will depart Addis Ababa Sunday evening after taking part in a volunteer program and attending a workshop on sharing development experience.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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