South Korea, which will in 2012 celebrate the 50th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with Israel, wants to intensify that relationship in all areas, particularly with regard to issues of security and peace, but also in the spheres of renewable energy, science and technology and bilateral trade.
An eleven-member South Korean parliamentary delegation which met with President Shimon Peres at the King David Hotel Jerusalem on Sunday, was effusive in voicing its desire to partner with Israel in a range of fields.
The delegation led by Lee Byung-suk, former chairman of the National Assembly’s Land Transport and Maritime Affairs Committee, included the influential Park Jin, who is the former chairman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee.
During their stay in Israel, the parliamentarians will meet with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, in addition to visiting businesses and research centers like Better Place, the Volcani Institute and Israel Aircraft Industries.
On Sunday, the group visited Yad Vashem and said they were profoundly impressed by the broad scope of visual documentation of the Holocaust and of vibrant pre-Holocaust Jewish communities that are no more.
The Korean parliamentarians will have an unusual opportunity to meet with their Israeli counterparts on Wednesday, when they play a return football match. An Israeli Knesset delegation that went to Korea last year for an inaugural match of this kind was trounced by the Koreans, who, according to Lee, won 4-2.
“This time I want the Israelis to win, but there will be no concessions,” he said with hint of humor.
Peres opened the meeting with the delegation by reviewing the history
and development of South Korea and comparing it with both North Korea
He recalled that in 1948, when North and South Korea established two
separate governments operating under different ideologies, South Korea
was very poor. Leaders sent 20,000 students to study science and
technology in the West with the idea that they would return home and put
their newly acquired knowledge to use, and in so doing, would boost the
South Korea flourished to the extent that its per capita GDP is in
excess of $20,000, which Peres contrasted with North Korea, calling it
rich in dictatorship, but the people are poor.
Lee complimented Peres for his role in developing Israel, and asked
Peres to use his offices to promote a Free Trade Agreement between South
Korea and Israel. South Korea already has Free Trade agreements with
the United States and the European Union, he said, and there is no
reason why it should not have one with Israel.