President Park Geun-hye left for Paris on Saturday on a three-nation European trip aimed at forging closer economic and financial partnerships, and securing support for her regional peace and cooperation initiatives from major players in global diplomacy.
President Park Geun-hye poses for a photo before leaving for Paris on a three-nation European trip at Seoul Airbase Airport in Seongnam on Saturday. (Yonhap News)
The weeklong trip, which also includes stops in Britain and Belgium, is the last overseas trip in her first year in office. It rounds off a series of visits to important countries, including the United States, China, Russia, and rising Southeast Asian economies Vietnam and Indonesia.
France and Britain are strong in basic science and technology, rich in culture and tradition, and their financial industries are top-notch. They also have a big say in global security and politics as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Belgium is home to the European Union headquarters.
All three countries fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.
After arriving in Paris on Saturday evening, Park plans to attend cultural events on Sunday, including a ceremony promoting Korean TV dramas and a visit to major museums. She also plans to meet with UNESCO chief Irina Bokova and hold a lunch meeting with South Korean residents in France.
On Monday, she will hold summit talks with French President Francois Hollande about expanding trade and investment, and strengthening cooperation in science and technology and other areas. Park also plans to seek France's support for Seoul's policy on the North.
Later in the day, Park is scheduled to tour an electric vehicle center of French automaker Renault in a symbolic visit underlining the importance of high-tech cooperation between the two countries.
Renault produces electric cars equipped with Korean-made batteries.
Officials said France, known for culture and strength in science and technology, can be one of South Korea's ideal partners in pursuing Park's "creative economy" vision that calls for blending information and communications technology with culture and other realms to create novel industries and more jobs.
South Korean firms can also team up with French companies and get jointly into third-nation markets, such as countries in Africa, where France has close ties with many of its past colonies, they said.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is scheduled to host a banquet for Park later Monday.
On Monday night, Park will head to London for a state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II. Officials said the trip reflects close friendship between the two countries because Britain invites only about two foreign leaders for state visits to the country a year.
A slew of events are set for Tuesday, beginning with a welcoming ceremony at Buckingham Palace. She will also attend a lunch hosted by the queen and the groundbreaking ceremony for the first Korean War monument in Britain to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war and the 130th anniversary of relations between the two countries.
She also plans to visit the British Parliament for a meeting with some 100 lawmakers and separate talks later in the day with British Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, and Liberal Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The Liberal Party is the coalition partner of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.
The queen is scheduled to host a state banquet for Park on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, she plans to take part in an economy and trade joint committee meeting, and a forum of CEOs before holding summit talks with Cameron later in the day. The two are expected to discuss economic cooperation, global issues like cyber security and climate change, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Other events set for later in the day include a visit to Imperial College London, a meeting with South Korean residents, a special screening for Korean movies and a visit to the financial district of the City of London.
Officials said the two sides plan to sign a string of memorandums of understandings on the sidelines of Park's visit. Many of them will be about bolstering financial cooperation between the two countries.
The two-day visit to Belgium from Nov. 7 includes a summit with Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to talk about business cooperation and other exchanges between the two countries. Park also plans to attend a dinner reception to be hosted by King Philippe.
While in Brussels, Park also plans to visit the European Union headquarters on Nov. 8 and hold talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy about boosting economic and other cooperation, including ensuring a smooth implementation of the free trade deal between the two sides.
The two sides plan to adopt a joint declaration laying out the vision for future cooperation.
The EU is the No. 1 investor in South Korea and the fourth-largest export market for the country. South Korea and the EU forged a free trade agreement in 2010 and the pact has been in force since 2011.