|President Park Geun-hye attends a fashion show featuring the traditional dresses of Korea and Vietnam -- the hanbok and the ao dai -- in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Sunday. (Yonhap News)|
Park arrived in Vietnam on Saturday for a five-day stay that she plans to use as the starting point for her “sales diplomacy” drive.
The highlight of the trip is a summit with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang on Monday. Park plans to use the meeting as the first stage in her economic push in foreign policy, while trying to expand all-around cooperation with the Southeast Asian nation, officials said.
Key topics for discussion include how to forge a bilateral free trade agreement and strengthen cooperation in nuclear power and industrial technology. Also on the agenda are development aid projects, such as providing support for a science and technology institute in Vietnam. A series of memorandums of understanding will be signed after the summit, officials said.
Park has touted the sales diplomacy slogan in recent months as a commitment to use diplomatic trips and meetings to promote the country’s economic interests.
As the first official event, Park attended a fashion show featuring the two countries’ traditional clothes -- Korean hanbok and Vietnamese ao dai – which was participated in by 17 leading Korean designers and two from Vietnam, featuring a total of 68 garments. Park herself wore a hanbok to the event.
"I am pleased to have this precious opportunity to share cultures of the two countries," Park said in a brief remark on the stage.
"Just like the hanbok's beautiful colors and lines and the ao dai's silhouette and style, both shine more when they mingle harmoniously like this. I hope South Korea and Vietnam will exchange and cooperate harmoniously with each other."
Later in the evening, Park attended a meeting with the 79 Korean business delegates and about 20 economic leaders from Vietnam to discuss cooperation on investment.
In her speech, Park said the joint research between the two countries on constructing the nuclear power plant will open a new era of economic cooperation.
Stressing the importance she places on Vietnam as a close partner by choosing it as the first destination among the ASEAN countries, Park also urged for the participants support for an early signing of the two countries’ free trade agreement.
During the meeting, Park emphasized the need for wider social responsibility activities by the Korean businesses.
The state visit also includes meetings with other top Vietnamese leaders, such as Nguyen Phu Trong, the secretary-general of the country’s Communist Party; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung; and Parliamentary Speaker Nguyen Sinh Hung, officials said.
On Tuesday, Park plans to make a one-day visit to the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s economic center and home to some 1,800 South Korean companies. About 85,000 South Koreans live there. She will be the first South Korean president to visit Ho Chi Minh City in nine years.
Park’s decision to visit Vietnam on her third overseas trip reflects the importance she attaches to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is enjoying strong economic growth, officials said.
She is expected to continue her economic focus in foreign policy throughout the rest of the year.
Before leaving for Vietnam, Park wrapped up her participation in the G20 meetings and a series of bilateral meetings.
The G20 summit concluded two days of discussions Friday with a joint communique in which the leaders pledged closer policy coordination to help spur a still-weak recovery of the global economy, tackle high unemployment and address imbalanced growth.
In Friday’s closing session, Park also championed her “creative economy” vision and fair market competition as solutions to high unemployment and widening economic inequalities facing the global economy.
On the sidelines of the summit, Park met bilaterally with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In her meeting with Putin on Friday, Park asked for Russia’s support to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff and push for such ambitious joint projects as linking the railways of the two nations via the North.
Park hailed progress in relations between Seoul and Moscow since they opened diplomatic relations in 1990, saying that bilateral trade volume had risen more than 110-fold. Still, she said, relations between the two countries could have developed further were it not for the North Korean nuclear crisis.
“I hope we can work together to resolve the issue and upgrade relations between the two countries by a notch,” she said.
Park also said that one of her foreign policy priorities was to strengthen relations with Eurasian nations.
She also expressed hope for realizing the long-discussed rail link through North Korea.
“I personally have dreamed of a railway going from Busan through to Europe via Russia,” Park said. “That is why I mentioned it many times in my speeches. I have been interested in that from a long time ago.”
Also on Friday, Park she hopes Japan will face up to history and work toward moving relations with Seoul in a “future-oriented manner,” as she met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Japan is an important neighbor to work together with for co-prosperity and peace in Northeast Asia,” Park said during the meeting with Merkel on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Russia’s port city of Saint Petersburg.
“However, we hope Japan will look correctly at history and take steps to move relations (with Seoul) in a future-oriented manner,” she said, according to senior presidential foreign affairs secretary Ju Chul-ki.
Relations between South Korea and Japan have been tense over Tokyo’s repeated claims to South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo and its unrepentant attitude toward the sexual enslavement of Korean women for its troops during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.