President Park Geun-hye arrived in Berlin on Tuesday for a four-day state visit aimed mainly at learning from German unification as she has made strong pitches for unification with North Korea.
The trip will also be watched closely because Park could unveil a new vision for inter-Korean unification when she visits the former East German economic center of Dresden later this week. Park will be the first South Korean president to visit a city in former East Germany.
South Korean leaders have sometimes used trips to Germany to announce new proposals or policies on North Korea. In 2000, former President Kim Dae-jung issued the "Berlin Declaration," calling for the end of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula and lasting peace between the two sides.
Three months after the declaration, Kim held the South's first-ever summit with North Korea.
In Berlin, Park will also hold separate talks with German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Cooperation on unification is expected to be among the key topics for both meetings, along with expanding economic cooperation between the two countries.
Park and Merkel have forged a personal bond since they first met in 2000 when Park visited Germany as the leader of the then opposition party. Merkel was also the first foreign head of state to call Park to congratulate her on winning the 2012 presidential election.
The two last met in September on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Russia.
In Berlin, Park also plans to hold a meeting with six former officials of East and West Germany to seek their advice on unification. They include former West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, who is Germany's current finance minister, and former East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere.
In recent months, Park has made strong pitches for unification, saying it would be an economic "bonanza" for the two Koreas as well as a blessing for neighboring countries. She also ordered the creation of a presidential committee to prepare for unification.
On her way home, Park will make a brief stop in Frankfurt to hold a meeting with South Korean residents, including former miners and nurses sent to Germany in the 1960s to earn hard currency for South Korea's economic development when Park's father, former President Park Chung-hee, was in office. (Yonhap)