S. Korean PM here on visit to forge trade partnership

SOUTH Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Yung Dug arrived yesterday for a three-day visit aimed at forging a trade partnership with Singapore.

Mr Lee, who flew in from Hanoi after a trip to Vietnam, was received by the Senior Minister of State for Community Development, Mr Ch’ng Jit Koon.

During his visit here, he hopes to strengthen economic and industrial cooperation between the two countries, a senior South Korean official said.

He said the two economies complemented each other and there was potential for closer ties.

“Singapore has a sophisticated service industry in areas like finance and marketing,” he noted.

“We have good industrial capacity in construction, shipbuilding and heavy machinery. We hope a partnership can develop.”

Singapore is South Korea’s sixth-largest trading partner. The two countries had a bilateral trade of US$4.65 billion (S$6.88 billion) last year.

But this figure could reach US$5 billion this year, the official said, adding that Seoul was hoping to expand trade in telecommunications, electronics and computers.

Seoul was also keen on joint ventures between the private sectors of the two nations in countries like China, he said. Besides economic issues, the South Korean premier was also expected to discuss with Singapore’s political leaders the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Indonesia.

Mr Lee is on an eight-day Asian tour, which included a ground-breaking trip to Vietnam, where he became the first South Korean leader to visit the country.

He will leave for Bangladesh after his stay here.

Mr Lee, 68, a former education professor who became prime minister in April, is accompanied by a 12-member delegation, including Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Kun-Woo and senior officials.

He will be given a ceremonial welcome by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the Istana and be hosted to an official dinner today.

He will also call on President Ong Teng Cheong and have separate meetings with Mr Goh and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The South Korean official said that the visit would further strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries which was first established in 1975.

“Singapore is very important in terms of our relations with Asean as a whole,” he said. “Singapore is an honest broker and is playing a key role in the region by promoting trade liberalisation and security dialogue.”

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