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Korea, Chile consolidate friendship, cooperation

President Lee Myung-bak met with President Sebastián Piñera of Chile for a bilateral summit on June 22, on the occasion of President Lee’s official visit to the South American country. Marking the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, the two presidents assessed the growing bilateral ties and exchanged visions for future development.

Since the establishment of bilateral relations in 1962, the two nations have expanded the level of comprehensive cooperation, amid finding common ground in the values of liberal democracy and the market economy. Chile was the first Latin American country to recognize the government of the Republic of Korea in 1949, also the first country with which Korea concluded a free trade pact in 2004.

President Lee Myung-bak holds a summit with President Sebastián Piñera at the presidential palace in San Tiago on June 22 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Both heads of state gave high marks to the substantive progress that has been made in economic cooperation, citing an over 4.6-fold increase of bilateral trade volume since the Korea-Chile FTA went into effect in 2004. The two parties reaffirmed their commitment to further advancing the scope of practical cooperation in various sectors including trade, environment, infrastructure development, mineral resources and renewable energy development, alongside educational and cultural exchanges and Antarctic research.

President Piñera praised Korea as a global leader in green growth and voiced his hope for deepened cooperation in renewable energy and the environment, referring to his visit to Sihwa Tidal Power Plant this March. The Chilean president visited the world’s largest tidal power installation at the artificial seawater Lake Sihwa in March this year, on the margins of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

President Lee spoke highly of the leadership of his counterpart and the potential of the Chilean peoples to maintain stable growth despite recent earthquakes and the global financial crisis. He also expressed his gratitude for the pro-trade remarks of the Chilean president during a G20 summit in Los Cabos earlier that week.

The two sides also took note of the bridging roles each country plays in their respective regions, amid ever-growing relations in trade and investment among the two continents. In that regard, the two sides pledged to consolidate the partnership between Korea and the Pacific Alliance -- a Latin American bloc created in June with the participation of Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico to integrate economies -- and further develop new trade links with the Asia-Pacific region.

Korea and Chile signed three joint statements on the sidelines of the summit aimed at bolstering cooperation in ocean energy, R&D of green energy technology, and prevention of environmental disruption by mining.

Presidents Lee and Piñera host a joint press conference following the bilateral summit in San Tiago (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

Later in the afternoon, President Lee and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok attended a banquet hosted by President Piñera, where the two parties engaged in a congenial dialogue on the popularity of Korean culture in Chile, as well as cultural exchanges alongside the state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula and in the international arena.

The visit marked the first state visit by a South Korean president to Chile in eight years since the late Roh Moo-hyun made a visit in 2004. President Lee’s official visit to Chile provided an opportunity for the two nations to discuss issues of mutual concern in various fields and enhance substantive cooperation in renewable energy, and pledge to elevate the dimensions of bilateral cooperation into new realms.

By Hwang Dana Staff Writer

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