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According to Yonhap News,
(SEOUL = Yonhap News) By Chang Jae-soon
South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo agreed Thursday to push for a science and technology pact to lay the groundwork for greater cooperation in seeking new economic growth engines under Park's "creative economy" vision.
The two leaders also agreed to continue to expand trade and investment by making better use of the free trade agreement with the European Union, the presidential office said. Two-way trade has been on the rise from US$3.1 billion in 2010 to $3.7 billion in 2011 and $3.65 billion last year.
Park arrived in Brussels earlier in the day on the third and last leg of her three-nation European trip that already took her to France and Britain earlier this week. Park's "creative economy" drive was also a key topic in her talks with the French and British leaders.
The vision calls for thinking up new ideas to develop future growth engines by taking advantage of science and technology, especially information and communications technology. It has been the cornerstone of the economic policy of the Park administration.
South Korea has science and technology cooperation pacts with 45 nations and the EU, but none with Belgium. In Thursday's summit, the two sides agreed to expand "creative economy" cooperation, especially in the areas of chemical, pharmaceutical, logistics and information communication technology.
On the sideline of Park's visit, major EU firms made investment commitments worth a total of $370 million. Chemical firm Solvay plans to build a chemical manufacturing plant in southwestern South Korea, and German giant BASF plans to set up a research and development center in Suwon, south of Seoul.
On the sidelines of the summit, South Korea and Belgium also signed a memorandum of understanding on development aid in an effort to develop assistance projects for developing countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Vietnam, officials said.
Park and Di Rupo agreed that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstance, as it poses serious threats to peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in the region and beyond. Park expressed gratitude for Belgium's support for Seoul's policy on Pyongyang.
Park also stressed that six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea should not be held only for the sake of talks. She also asked the Belgian leader to help send a consistent message to the communist nation that it must change its course.
Park also outlined her "Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative," a drive aimed at enhancing peace in a region fraught with historical and territorial tension. The initiative strives for peace in a step-by-step manner, beginning with small confidence-building measures. Di Rupo expressed support for the vision.
Upon arrival in Brussels, Park made a visit to a war memorial honoring Belgium's participation in the 1950-53 Korean War, and met with some elderly Belgian veterans in uniform.
"On behalf of the Republic of Korea, I offer deep gratitude to veterans for making sacrifices to safeguard the freedom of the Republic of Korea," she said. "I hope my visit will deepen the blood-forged friendship between the two countries. I wish all of you good health."
Park then held a meeting with leading European scientists and experts to seek their advice on "creative economy." Participants included Helga Nowotny, president of the European Research Council, and Tim Hunt, the 2001 Nobel prize winner in physiology or medicine.
She planned to attend a banquet to be hosted by King Philippe later in the day.
On Friday, Park plans to visit the European Union headquarters and hold talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy about boosting economic cooperation, including ensuring a smooth implementation of the free trade deal between the two sides.
The sides plan to adopt a joint declaration laying out the vision for future cooperation.
The EU is the No. 1 investor in South Korea and the fourth-largest export market for the country. South Korea and the EU forged a free trade agreement in 2010, and the pact has been in force since 2011.
Copyrights Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Yonhap News (Nov. 7, 2013)