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Lee to start Europe tour Sunday

President Lee Myung-bak will fly to Berlin on Sunday, the first destination of his weeklong European tour aimed mostly at strengthening economic cooperation.

The businessman-turned-president plans to discuss how to promote bilateral trade and investment as well as cooperation for green growth with the leaders of Germany, Denmark and France, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Korea’s free trade agreement with the European Union was ratified late Wednesday by the ruling Grand National Party ahead of Lee’s trip to Korea’s main trade partners in Europe next week in a vote boycotted by opposition lawmakers. The ruling party has more than half the seats in the National Assembly. The Korea-EU FTA is tentatively set to take effect on July 1.

On Monday, Lee is scheduled to hold talks with German President Christian Wulff and Prime Minister Angela Merkel in Berlin after touring the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of Berlin and the German reunification.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry is currently preparing to receive Berlin’s database related to the 1990 reunification of East and West Germany to help prepare for reunification with North Korea.

The South Korean unification minister, however, is not going to accompany Lee on his trip to Berlin as he is soon to be replaced.

On Tuesday, Lee is set to meet with German officials and academics who were deeply involved in Germany’s reunification process before departing for Frankfurt where he will hold talks with chief executives of the European country’s major companies. Lee will also meet with South Koreans residing in Frankfurt and the leader of the state of Hesse later Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Lee will fly to Copenhagen where he will focus on expanding ties with Denmark, a leader of environment-friendly energy development, for his globally acclaimed policy of low-carbon, green growth.

Lee is slated to hold talks and a joint press conference with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen on Thursday before taking off for Paris.

The president plans to hold talks and a business luncheon with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday during which the two leaders will discuss expanding trade and cooperation in aerospace engineering and defense industry.

“The issue of Oegyujanggak (Korea’s centuries-old royal books) had been a barrier to bilateral relations with France, but their recent return is opening an opportunity to take the Korean-French ties to a new level,” an aide to Lee told reporters.

Two hundred and ninety seven volumes of the royal books dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were looted by French troops in 1866 and had been kept at the French national library since. The second shipment of the books arrived in Korea last week and the remaining two shipments will be delivered by May 27.

Also on Friday, Lee will attend a Group of 20 Business Summit in Paris, six months ahead of the G20 summit in Cannes in November, and meet with Korean and French businessmen.

Lee will leave Paris on Saturday after a breakfast meeting with French scholars and talks with South Korean residents there.

The president will return home early Sunday.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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