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Park to visit Africa, France later this month

President Park Geun-hye plans to leave for Ethiopia later this month on a 12-day, four-nation trip to Africa and France with the aim of boosting bilateral ties, South Korea's presidential office said Thursday.

The trip, which will also take Park to Uganda and Kenya, comes as South Korea is pushing its companies to explore business opportunities in foreign countries that could give a much-needed boost to Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Africa has emerged as a continent of opportunity in recent years, though South Korea has yet to make a significant foray into these markets. The country's outbound shipments to Africa accounted for just 1.4 percent of its total exports last year, according to government data.

The chief executive is set to meet with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during her trip to Addis Ababa from May 25 to 28 before holding two separate talks with Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In Ethiopia, Park is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the headquarters of the African Union and meet with African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Park also plans to attend ceremonies for South Korea's official development assistance (ODA) programs in the three African countries. The Korea Aid program is designed to provide health service, food and cultural contents to local people.

South Korea -- which has become the first former aid recipient to join the ranks of official donors in a half-century -- has so far concentrated its aid on Asia, but has recently expanded its assistance to African nations.

Seoul has earmarked 2.43 trillion won ($2.10 billion) for its 2016 ODA budget to be used on some 1,230 overseas aid projects.

The trip is expected to assist economic and social development of the three African countries and pave the way for South Korean companies to make inroads into their markets, the presidential office added.

The latest tour is also set to take Park to France for a state visit on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Park is set to meet with her French counterpart Francois Hollande to discuss a wide-range of issues, including economy and culture, as well as North Korea’s nuclear program and other global issues.

Last year, Park visited Paris to attend the U.N. climate change summit. (Yonhap)
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