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S. Korea, Colombia commit to concluding trade fact this year

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pledged Thursday to significantly boost relations between the two countries and seek an early conclusion of a free trade agreement.

The leaders agreed during summit talks in Seoul to upgrade their half-century-old relations to a “strategic cooperative partnership,” a diplomatic term that usually refers to ties that are close enough to cooperate on security, global issues and other topics beyond simply seeking economic interests from each other.

“More than anything else, the two countries agreed in today’s summit talks to conclude free trade agreement negotiations within this year so as to expand their political alliance forged in blood to an economic alliance,” the presidential office said in a statement.

Colombia was the only country in Central and South America that sent troops to help South Korea defend itself against invading troops from North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of relations between the two countries.

Trade volume between the two countries amounted to $782 million last year.

The two leaders also agreed to boost cooperation in energy and resources, science and technology, broadcasting and communications and other areas.

After the summit meeting, the sides signed five memorandums of understanding that call for establishing a high-level policy consultation forum and greater cooperation in energy and resources, electricity, environment and housing and urban development.

Santos arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for a three-day state visit. Upon arrival, he paid a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas and the United Nations Command headquarters, a move symbolizing Colombia’s contribution to South Korea’s defense during the war.

The visit also includes a luncheon with South Korean business leaders, a Colombia investment promotion session, a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae and a visit to industrial facilities in southeastern South Korea.

Santos is the third Colombian president ever to visit South Korea and the first since 1996. 

(Yonhap News)
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