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S. Korea, Central American nations agree in summit to deepen comprehensive cooperation

President Moon Jae-in (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in (Cheong Wa Dae)
The leaders of South Korea and eight Central American countries adopted a joint vision Friday for the development of comprehensive partnerships especially in the digital and environment-friendly sectors.

The accord came at the first South Korea-Central American Integration System summit in 11 years. The regional group, widely known as SICA, consists of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

During the virtual session, President Moon Jae-in noted that South Korea will commemorate the 60th anniversary next year of forging diplomatic ties with seven SICA members, except for Belize. Formal diplomatic relations between South Korea and Belize were established in 1987.

In his opening remarks, Moon said, "I am very glad for South Korea to be with SICA's journey towards co-prosperity."

He said South Korea and SICA have practiced solidarity and cooperation in the COVID-19 crisis, sharing materials and experience related to the antivirus fight.

"Now, we plan to broaden the horizons of cooperation and solidarity. South Korea proactively supports SICA members' efforts to achieve regional integration and sustainable economic development through the establishment of stable governance," Moon stated.

The peoples of South Korea and SICA countries are "emotionally close," although they live on the other side of the globe, he said.

South Koreans are so "passionate and dynamic" that they are "called Asia's Latinos," he added.

During the summit session, the president stressed the need to expand people-to-people exchanges and further enhance "mutual understanding," according to Cheong Wa Dae.

He expressed Seoul's commitment to making contributions to the social and economic stability in the SICA region as well as regional integration.

He proposed that the two sides develop "forward-looking comprehensive" cooperation as partners in the green and digital fields for the sake of economic recovery in the post-coronavirus era.

He said South Korea will continue efforts for the complete denuclearization of the peninsula and establishment of permanent peace. The leaders of SICA member states expressed support and agreed on the importance of inter-Korean and Washington-Pyongyang dialogue resuming at an early date.

Moon and his counterparts adopted a joint statement presenting the vision for the deepening of cooperation.

It marked South Korea's first multilateral summit with Latin American countries under the Moon administration.

The previous South Korea-SICA summit was held in 2010 after the inaugural session in 1996 and the second in 2005.

Cheong Wa Dae pointed out the strategic significance of the Central American region.

It represents a geographical and economic hub connecting North and South America and an advanced base for South Korean companies to enter the US market.

The eight SICA members have a total population of 60 million and around $330 billion of combined gross domestic product.

The South Korea-Central America free trade agreement took effect in March, and South Korea joined the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) as a non-regional member last year.

SICA is designed to promote the economic, social, cultural and political development of the member countries in a balanced, harmonious and sustainable way. South Korea joined it in 2012 as an extra-regional observer. (Yonhap)