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Korea, Philippines step up economic cooperation

Park, Aquino agree to work together on trade, investment, mutual protection of nationals

Presidents Park Geun-hye and Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines watch Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (right) and the Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin sign a memorandum of understanding on bilateral defense cooperation at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
Presidents Park Geun-hye and Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines watch Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (right) and the Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin sign a memorandum of understanding on bilateral defense cooperation at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
President Park Geun-hye held summit talks with visiting President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines on Thursday, with the two agreeing on wide-ranging cooperation on defense and economy as part of her expedited “sales diplomacy” toward Southeast Asia.

After the summit meeting, the presidents oversaw the signing of a contract for the provision of development aid as well as memorandums of understanding on defense and sports.

Park expressed gratitude for the Philippines’ selection of Korea’s FA-50 trainer-turned-light attack jets and urged wider defense cooperation through swift finalization of the deal.

The two countries began negotiating for the export of the FA-50s since January and is currently in the process of finalizing the decision, Cheong Wa Dae explained.

Korea, meanwhile, agreed to provide $80.4 million worth of Economic Development Cooperation Funds for an integrated disaster risk prevention project for the Philippines’ Pampanga region.

The two countries will also seek to work together on infrastructure construction projects such as the construction of a subway in Manila.

For sake of better protection of Koreans in the Philippines amid heightened safety concerns, Park and Aquino agreed to work on opening an annex of the Korean Embassy in Cebu. Aquino also requested Korea’s cooperation in expanding support for Filipino workers and marriage immigrants.

“It is hoped that this meeting serves as an opportunity for the exchanges and relations with our longtime friend Philippines to further deepen and develop,” Park said.

Park also expressed condolences for the victims from the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the central Philippines earlier this week and killed more than a hundred people, and expressed hope for early recovery from the disaster.

Aquino thanked Park for her hospitality and for Korea’s humanitarian aid for the victims of Zamboanga that was attacked by the rebels in September.

Streets adorned with the national flags of the Philippines and Korea welcomed Aquino in his first visit to Seoul as president. Aquino, here on a two-day stay, also became the first guest to make a state visit since Park assumed office, and the third president to hold one-on-one talks at Cheong Wa Dae. He was preceded by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in May and President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique in June.

Park and Aquino had met during the series of multinational summit meetings among the ASEAN member countries as well as East Asia Summit members in Brunei earlier this month. During their informal encounter there, Aquino had explained his “special relations” with Korea by showing Park a picture of his late father, a former senator who had covered the Korean War in the 1950s as a journalist, imprinted on a Philippine peso bill.

Both presidents are also the offspring of former leaders ― presidents Corazon Aquino of the Philippines and Park Chung-hee of Korea.

Aquino, a fourth-generation politician, was elected president in May 2010 with more than 40 percent of the vote, becoming the world’s first man to follow his mother’s footsteps in becoming president.

President Aquino’s father, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated in 1983 while leading a democratic movement against the dictatorship there.

Cheong Wa Dae said that Korea and the Philippines shared a long friendship since they forged diplomatic ties in 1949 and particularly after the Philippines took part in the Korean War.

Cheong Wa Dae said the invitation to Aquino represents the prominence of ASEAN in Korea’s pursuit of economic growth.

Aquino attended a formal welcoming ceremony followed by the summit talks and signing ceremony of various cooperation agreements, as well as a state dinner.

Aquino will leave Korea on Friday after visiting the War Memorial, attending a luncheon hosted by the conglomerates and meeting with Filipino residents here.

The trade volume between Korea and the Philippines has reached $11.5 billion as of 2012.

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