ADDIS ABABA -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed Friday to provide active support for Ethiopia's economic development, pledging to significantly boost relations with the African nation that helped save the South from North Korea's invasion 60 years ago.
In summit talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Lee expressed gratitude for Ethiopia's participation in the 1950-53 Korean War, and said South Korea wants to develop ties with Ethiopia beyond the traditional friendship into those of "development cooperation partners."
"Ethiopian troops fought most bravely and won every battle they fought ... And 122 people lost their lives," Lee said during a joint press conference with Meles after summit talks. "Though 60 years has passed, South Korean people have not forgotten the sacrifices."
Lee said that there are about 400 Ethiopian veterans still alive, and South Korea plans to provide their descendants with technology training so that they can contribute to their national development.
Meles expressed a strong commitment to strengthen economic cooperation with South Korea and to learn from the country's experience of rebuilding the nation from the war's ashes to one of the world's largest economies, a statement from the presidential office said.
Meles told the press conference that Ethiopia is eager to share South Korea's development experience and called for grants and loans from the government in Seoul and investment from South Korean companies.
The two leaders agreed to work closely together for the success of Ethiopia's five-year economic development scheme, known as the "Growth and Transformation Plan," and actively share the South's experience of developing its economy and agricultural sectors, the statement said.
They also agreed to share Seoul's "green growth" vision for environment-friendly growth.
Other agreed points include promoting trade and investment as well as increasing cooperation in resources and technology to help Ethiopia grow its economy in a sustainable manner, the statement said.
"I believe the relations between the two countries can be the best model in Africa," Lee said.
Lee appreciates Ethiopia's role in improving regional peace and stability, while Meles expressed support for Seoul's efforts to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the statement said.
The sides signed a grant provision agreement and other economic cooperation accords.
Lee arrived in Addis Ababa earlier Friday for a three-day visit. Ethiopia is the final leg of Lee's three-nation African tour that took him to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lee is the first South Korean president to visit Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is one of 16 nations that sent combat troops as part of U.N. forces to help South Korea repel invading North Korean troops during the Korean War. A total of 6,037 Ethiopian troops were dispatched, with 122 killed and 536 injured.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Ethiopia's participation in the war.
Lee plans to lay a wreath at the Korean War Memorial and meet with Korean War veterans on Saturday. Lee also plans to visit two villages on Saturday and Sunday to do volunteer work in a symbolic gesture of repaying Ethiopia.