Pres­i­dent's Korea visit takes ties to next level

Seoul pledges US$ 500 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment aid; two coun­tries sign mul­ti­ple agree­ments

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - An­thony David re­port­ing from Seoul

Both, Sri Lankan and South Korean flags flut­tered on the way to the ‘Blue House’, also known as ‘Cheong Wa Dae’ -lit­er­ally, the pav­il­ion of blue tiles -- in Seoul on Wed­nes­day, as Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena’s mo­tor­cade was es­corted through the streets last Wed­nes­day.

A vis­it­ing me­dia team after go­ing through tight se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures were al­ready in place to wit­ness the events at the Pres­i­den­tial palace. The events were to mark the 40th an­niver­sary of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions.

South Korea's Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-In re­ceived Pres­i­dent Sirisena be­fore amil­i­tary guard of hon­our was ac­corded to him. Ac­cord­ing to the itin­er­ary, it was on this oc­ca­sion that the two pres­i­dents were to meet for the first time. But the pre­vi­ous day, Pres­i­dent Moon gave the vis­it­ing head of state a surprise by show­ing up at a Bud­dhist tem­ple and wel­com­ing him in a move that un­der­lined the close re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions.

Soon the of­fi­cial talks be­tween the two heads of state were on track. Later they were joined by six Sri Lankan cabi­net min­is­ters and South Korean of­fi­cials. Most of the issues dis­cussed were set out in a joint state­ment.

Be­side the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony, vis­its to places of re­li­gious and cul­tural im­por­tance, trade agree­ments, a meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of some 30,000 Sri Lankans work­ing or liv­ing in South Korea were packed into Pres­i­dent Sirisena’s two and half day pro­gramme dur­ing his first of­fi­cial visit to the coun­try after as­sum­ing du­ties as Pres­i­dent in 2015.

The state ban­quet was fol­lowed by a mu­si­cal per­for­mance which in­cluded a dance act by lit­tle girls singing the well known baila ‘Sura­gani’.

One of the sig­nif­i­cant out­comes of the visit was South Korea's pledge to give Sri Lanka US$ 500 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment aid dur­ing the next two years. An agree­ment was signed, for­mal­is­ing the pledge.

Yet an­other achieve­ment was the agree­ment on an Em­ploy­ment Per­mit Sys­tem, un­der which South Korea will of­fer more jobs to Sri Lanka work­ers.

A mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing be­tween the Korea Trade- In­vest­ment Promo­tion Agency ( KOTRA) and the Board of In­vest­ment of Sri Lanka was also signed to fur­ther ex­pand in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for Korean and Sri Lankan com­pa­nies in each oth­ers' coun­tries. An­other sig­nif­i­cant high­light was the the Pres­i­dent's par­tic­i­pa­tion at a Busi­ness Sum­mit at­tended by South Korean busi­ness lead­ers.

The two coun­tries also agreed to ex­plore av­enues to en­hance op­por­tu­ni­ties for Korean com­pa­nies to en­gage in in­fra­struc­ture and de­vel­op­ment projects in Sri Lanka, in­clud­ing Me­gapo­lis projects.

They also agreed to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion in science, technology, in­no­va­tion and ICT and to make progress on the MOU signed last year on a Mul­tipur­pose Har­bour pro­ject in Sri Lanka.

An­other area of co­op­er­a­tion was on pro­mot­ing con­nec­tiv­ity through cul­tural and tourism ex­changes and the re­vi­sion of the bi­lat­eral Air Ser­vices Agree­ment.

Both lead­ers also wel­comed the sign­ing of the new agree­ment on cul­ture, arts, ed­u­ca­tion, youth and sports.

Sri Lanka ap­pre­ci­ated the col­lab­o­ra­tion with a Korean Univer­sity in de­vel­op­ing a col­lege of nurses un­der the Colombo Univer­sity.

The two lead­ers strongly con­demned North Korea’s tests of long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles in vi­o­la­tion of United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

The Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion to Pres­i­dent Moon to visit Sri Lanka next year.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena on Tues­day vis­ited the fa­mous Jo­gyesa Tem­ple where he was wel­comed by Most Ven­er­a­ble Seol Jeong, head of the Jo­gye Or­der, the most prom­i­nent Bud­dhist sect in Korea.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena ex­pressed his hap­pi­ness about the op­por­tu­nity to visit Jo­gyesa Tem­ple where the sa­cred Bud­dha relics gifted by Ana­garika Dharma­pala in 1913 have been en­shrined.

A host of other meet­ings took place. Among them was the Pres­i­dent's meet­ing with 200 Sri Lankans either work­ing or liv­ing in South Korea. The Pres­i­dent told them not to be­lieve in base­less sto­ries com­ing through the so­cial me­dia and urged them ex­tend their sup­port to build the coun­try.

On Thurs­day, hours be­fore his de­par­ture to Sri Lanka, the Pres­i­dent was con­ferred with the Hon­orary Cit­i­zen­ship of Seoul Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment.

It was con­ferred by Seoul Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment Mayor Park Won-soon at a spe­cial cer­e­mony at the Mayor’s Of­fice.

The Pres­i­dent, dur­ing a visit to the Mayor’s of­fice viewed a video pre­sen­ta­tion on the City of Seoul and how it was ad­min­is­tered through a dig­i­tal sys­tem. He later vis­ited the con­trol room to see the im­pres­sive han­dling of the city through the dig­i­tal elec­tronic sys­tem.

He said he would ad­vise Colombo city plan­ners to study the sys­tem as they could learn from the suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ences of the Seoul Met­ro­pol­i­tan.

Min­is­ters Sarath Amunugama, Ti­lak Mara­pana , Ma­lik Sa­ma­rawick­rema, Tha­latha Athuko­rale, Daya Ga­m­age and Ran­jith Siyam­bal­api­tiya ac­com­pa­nied the Pres­i­dent while Sri Lanka Am­bas­sador Ma­nee­sha Gu­nasek­era played a key role in or­gan­is­ing the visit and meet­ings.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena’s three day state visit to the Re­pub­lic of Korea has the re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions to the next higher level, ob­servers say.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena at the State Ban­quet with S. Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-In and wife

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