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President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday he is confident South Korea can cope well
with a looming global economic crisis stemming from the eurozone financial
turmoil, as the country has made enough preparations to ward off such a
"The government won't let its guard down even a bit while closely monitoring developments in the world economic situation," Lee said in a speech during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
Lee also offered condolences to the eight South Koreans killed in a helicopter crash in Peru -- all of them businessmen returning from a trip to a potential site for a hydropower plant -- saying sacrifices of such people helped make South Korea one of the largest trading powers in the world.
"The achievement of US$1 trillion in trade was the fruit of blood, sweat and efforts of businessmen and workers," Lee said. "Beyond the 1 trillion dollars in trade, we have to open up an era of $2 trillion in trade based on this DNA of success."
Though conglomerates took the lead in achieving the landmark trade feat, Lee said that small- and medium-sized enterprises should play greater roles and work together with large firms if the country is to break the $2 trillion mark.
Lee also said South Korea was able to join the so-called "20-50 club" of countries with a per capita national income of more than $20,000 and a population of more than 50 million as the country has "opened its doors wide" and promoted trade with other nations.
"We are the only nation that forged free trade agreements with the world's three largest economic blocs, which are the United States, the 27 countries of the European Union and the 10 countries of ASEAN" (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Lee said.
Before the ceremony, Lee held a meeting with trade-related officials and businessmen at export firms, stressing that how South Korea fares in exports this year will determine whether the country's annual trade will continue to top $1 trillion.
"I believe this year may be a big turning point in exports. If we overcome this year well, then things will go smoothly afterwards," Lee said. "What is important is that each and every export firm should reach their goal. If they lower goals because of the difficult situation this year, then the goal of the Republic of Korea cannot help but be lowered."