Park, Merkel to discuss strengthening ties on unification

By Korea Herald

Summit of two female leaders draws interest for their shared political background, personal bond

  • Published : Mar 26, 2014 - 21:05
  • Updated : Mar 26, 2014 - 22:02
President Park Geun-hye and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation on the unification process of the two Koreas in the future during a summit to be held later on Wednesday in Berlin.

Park is currently in Germany for a four-day state visit. The second leg of her European tour is heavily focused on learning about Germany’s unification experience. Park has been stressing the importance of unification recently, calling it a possible “bonanza” that could bring tremendous business opportunities not only for the two Koreas but also for neighboring countries. Park has also ordered officials to create a presidential committee to prepare for unification.

“President Park’s visit to Germany is aimed at sharing the European country’s experience of achieving unification and integration to prepare for the unification of North and South Korea,” said Ju Cheol-ki, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security.

The two leaders are also to talk about bolstering bilateral cooperation on trade, investment, industrial and cultural sectors Park was to address the Korean government’s efforts to encourage start-up businesses, and for small- and medium-sized enterprises to have more creativity when developing products. Before meeting Merkel, Park held separate talks with German President Joachim Gauck.

The meeting of the two leaders drew keen attention as they share similar backgrounds and political career paths. Both started their political careers in 1998 and have also become the first female leaders of their countries. The two will also end their terms in 2017. Park is two years older than Merkel.

Park and Merkel have also built a close relationship over last 14 years. The two first met in 2000 when Park, the then vice-chairwoman of the opposition party, visited Germany. Merkel was also an opposition party leader at that time. The two exchanged letters when Park became the chairwoman of the then-Grand National Party in 2004 and Merkel became the first female chancellor a year later.

Merkel was the first foreign leader to make congratulatory calls to Park when she won the presidential election in 2012. Park and Merkel have so far met four times. The two met last met in September on the sidelines of a G-20 summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia. The summit in Berlin on Wednesday was their fifth official meeting.

The highlight of Park’s state visit to Germany is expected to be her announcement of a new vision for the unification of the two Koreas while delivering a speech in Dresden, the former East German economic center, on Friday. She is to receive an honorary doctorate from Dresden University of Technology. She is the first South Korean president to visit the former East Germany, officials said.

Historically, Germany has been a country where South Korean leaders have announced new proposals or policies on North Korea.

In 2000, former President Kim Dae-jung delivered the “Berlin Declaration,” calling for an end to the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula. The declaration led to a historic summit between Kim and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il three month later.

By Cho Chung-un and news reports