Sri Lanka and South Korea considably strengthened inter – parliamentary co-operation as an essence in further promoting close bonds of friendship between the two countries. “Both parties acknowledged the vibrant multifaceted bilateral partnership built over the years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977 and agreed to reinforce the institutional framework for co-operation by setting up a mechanism for regular bilateral policy consultations at official level,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a release yesterday following President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s successful state visit to South Korea.
On arrival at the Seoul National Airport, the President and the Sri Lanka delegation were received by high-level officials of the Korean government and was accorded a ceremonial welcome by the South Korean military with 21 gun salutes.
President Lee and First Lady Kim received President Rajapaksa and First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa at Blue House, the official residence of the Korean President on April 24 morning. President Rajapaksa was invited by his South Korean counterpart to witness the Republic of Korea tri – service guard of honour.
Summit talks were held thereafter marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding.
The thrust of the talks was on invigorating the dynamic economic partnership between the two countries which saw the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding on the sectors of Economic and Technical Co-operation, Information Technology and Power and Energy.
The MoUs would ensure greater involvement by the Republic of Korea government in the development of the ICT sector in Sri Lanka and in pursuing an economically viable partnership with Sri Lanka in the power generation sector.
The Korean government also pledged to renew the Economic Development Co-operation Fund for 2013 to 2015 providing US $ 200 million as financial and technical assistance for the country’s socio – economic development efforts.
The Korean President also agreed to favourably consider Sri Lanka’s request to enhance the quantum of development assistance so far extended.
President Lee commended the successful leadership given by President Rajapaksa, in eradicating the forces of terrorism that plagued the country for nearly three decades and bringing peace and stability to the nation which brought with it a conducive environment for economic growth.
The bilateral talks surveyed the attractiveness and the competitiveness of Sri Lanka’s current investment climate and President Lee, registered the keen interest of Korean entrepreneurs and corporate sector to engage in a deeper and broader bilateral economic partnership to help chart the future course of business and trade interactions between the two countries.
The Korean President also acknowledged the contribution made by the Sri Lanka expat labour force to the Korean economy and informed of their desire to increase the current quota given to Sri Lanka.
President Rajapaksa, in response sought the assistance of competent teachers in the education centers being established to enhance Korean language skills which would provide a competitive advantage for the Sri Lanka labour force to enter the Korean job market.
He encouraged a wider representation of the Korean business community in the trade and investment activities in Sri Lanka, with particular reference to the new thrust areas of information communication technology, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals and international arbitration sectors that have now opened up.
On the sidelines of the official visit, President Rajapaksa met CEOs of corporate giants such as Samsung, Hyundai, Keangnam, Lotte and Hanjin. These corporate leaders expressed a keen interest in establishing a wider in-depth partnership with Sri Lanka.
President Rajapaksa also addressed the business forums in Seoul and in the port city of Busan, which is also South Korea’s second largest metropolis after Seoul.
The Sri Lanka side was represented by the Central Bank governor, BoI and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau chairmen in addition to a contingent of business representatives that participated in these forums.
President Rajapaksa also met the Sri Lanka expat community and had an informal interaction with them inquiring into their well-being.
A visit to the MAPO resource recovery plant in Seoul, a state-of-the-art resource incineration facility was also arranged, which paved the way for Sri Lanka to share technological know-how and expertise for bilateral assistance.
In Busan, a visit to the Kori Nuclear Power Plant, enabled the Sri Lanka delegation to have a firsthand impression of the hi- tech processing capabilities of the South Korean economy in obtaining over 40 percent of the county’s clean energy supply.
President Rajapaksa and the First Lady were honoured at a state banquet on April 24 by President Lee and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok and in the morning the leaders visited the Seoul National Cemetery and paid tribute to the fallen heroes.
A separate programme was also arranged for First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa to interact with the humanitarian and social organisations working for the benefit of Women and Children in Seoul.
The visit concluded with both leaders expressing satisfaction at the outcome of the state visit by President Rajapaksa to the Republic of Korea and the President of Sri Lanka inviting the South Korean President to pay an early visit to Sri Lanka, which invitation was accepted with appreciation.
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