Back To Top

Park to seek closer ties with Europe

Agenda for France, Britain, Belgium, EU set on creative economy, finance, culture

President Park Geun-hye embarks on a weeklong trip to Europe on Saturday, aiming to broaden exchanges with France, Britain, Belgium and the European Union in the economy, finance, investment and culture.

Cheong Wa Dae said Park’s visit will pave way for Korea to seek new sources of growth with European partners through the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement.

This is her first visit to the continent since assuming office in February. Park studied in Paris in 1974, cutting short her stay upon the assassination of her mother, the first lady, the same year.

Park’s visit in during her first year in office also reflects the emphasis placed on the region, as the Seoul government hopes to learn from EU members about overcoming historical conflicts and securing regional integration, the presidential office said.

“The concept for this presidential trip is how to cooperate with Western European countries in creative economy and finance. ... Britain is extremely strong in terms of finance, and we have focused on how to create synergy by collaborating on such strong points,” said Cho Won-dong, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs.

Citing Britain as having the best potential for cooperation, Cho said numerous agreements are in the works. An example is the move to set up a dialogue channel to discuss cooperation on Korea’s move to establish a financial consumer protection agency.

Park, during Thursday’s meeting with senior secretaries, also touted the economic aspect of her trip.

“I plan to activate trade with the EU, which is the world’s largest single economic community and is on its way to economic recovery, and to prepare the foundation for expanded advancement by our companies and people there,” Park said in her Thursday meeting with the senior secretaries.

“I plan to enthusiastically pursue sales diplomacy to construct the basis for cooperation in creative economy with EU countries that have long been fostering creative industries, such as cultural media with a world-leading capacity in basic science,” she added.

Park’s trip to Western Europe coincides with the 50th anniversary of ties between Korea and the EU, as well as the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Britain.

All three destinations are countries that participated in the Korean War (1950-1953), which Park will acknowledge and highlight throughout her eight-day trip.

Park’s first stop is France, where she will stay for three days. Her schedule includes attending a cultural event, meeting with Korean residents there, and talks with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization secretary-general. On Monday, Park will hold summit talks with Francois Hollande and discuss cooperation on politics and the economy. Park is also set to hold talks with economic leaders of the two countries and visit the exhibition hall for Renault’s electric vehicles. Cheong Wa Dae explained that the company represents the symbolic case of bilateral cooperation by manufacturing electric cars installed with Korean batteries.

Park will then move on to Britain, where she will make an official state visit upon the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, for four days.

While there, Park will attend a luncheon and dinner hosted by the queen, as well as a groundbreaking ceremony for the first monument to British veterans of the Korean War.

Talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and Parliament members are scheduled along with meetings with political leaders and business representatives.

Park will visit Imperial College London, known for its world-class education and research in science and engineering, and attend talks with Korean residents there and a special screening event for Korean movies.

“Through the first joint committee meeting on economy and trade between the ministers, the government plans to sign a series of memorandums of understanding on transportation infrastructure, finance, energy, and information and communications,” said Ju Chul-ki, senior secretary for foreign affairs.

Her last stop will be Belgium, which Park had visited in 2006 and 2009.

Park plans to meet with scientists and venture businesspeople before holding summit talks with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. The two will oversee the signing of an MOU on development cooperation. Park will also attend a dinner hosted by Belgium’s King Philippe.

Korea and Belgium’s level of cooperation has been expanding, such as through the project of establishing campus of Belgium’s Ghent University in Songdo, Incheon, and the opening of a Korean cultural center in Belgium, Ju said.

Last on the itinerary are the summit talks with EU leadership, through which they will adopt a joint statement and set goals to broaden their bilateral relations to regional and international issues. Korea signed an FTA with the EU as the first Asian country.

While in the region, various agreements will also come in the fields of finance, such as in establishing consultative body on financial reform and MOUs between private banks. The trip would also pave the way for Korean venture companies to receive British venture capital investment, Cheong Wa Dae explained.

By Lee Joo-hee (