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Yoon promotes economy, Expo bid in New York

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Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, holds a bilateral summit with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, holds a bilateral summit with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

President Yoon Suk Yeol began his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly with a series of bilateral talks focused on economic diplomacy and promoting Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo in Busan.

During the course of his five-day visit to the United States, Yoon is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with at least 38 leaders, according to the presidential office Tuesday.

Yoon, accompanied by first lady Kim Keon Hee, arrived in New York at 10 a.m. Monday and met with nine countries’ leaders over the course of nine hours on his first day on the sidelines of the high-level session of the 78th UN General Assembly.

This UN trip is part of both an “all-out effort for the Expo” and a campaign to strengthen economic cooperation, Kim Eun-hye, senior presidential secretary for press affairs, said in a statement.

Kim said that a main focus of the meetings will be on “providing a breakthrough for our economy” to improve people’s lives amid domestic and global crises.

The series of bilateral meetings and diplomatic efforts at the UN is significant as the Bureau International des Expositions gears up to select the World Expo host country by secret ballot in November.

The president is set to give an address to the United Nations on Wednesday, in which he is expected to sternly warn North Korea against further hostile behavior.

During this first round of back-to-back bilateral summits, he met with the leaders of Sri Lanka, San Marino, Burundi, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Montenegro, Turkmenistan, Saint Lucia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Yoon started the day with his first bilateral summit with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, saying he looks forward to a “long-term partnership” between the two countries in development cooperation, labor, climate change responses, trade and investment. Yoon also said Korea would like to contribute to creating jobs for youths through developing a vocation training center.

Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lankan workers who were trained in South Korea have been employed as skilled laborers back home. He expressed hopes for more active trade and investment between the two countries through the signing of a cooperation deal, as well as further exchanges with Korea in areas such as ICT, trade, labor, regional development and cultural exchange.

Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Czech President Petr Pavel during a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Czech President Petr Pavel during a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

In his meeting with Czech President Petr Pavel, Yoon asked the Czech Republic to support Korean companies’ participation in a new nuclear power plant project in Dukovany.

He also asked for cooperation in areas of interest to the Czech Republic, including hydrogen economy and high-speed rail construction.

Pavel responded that he looks forward to expanding cooperation in the energy, automobile and high-speed rail sectors, along with battery production, noting his country is rich in lithium resources.

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Yoon, in his talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, point to their countries’ strengthened cooperation in green growth.

This comes as Korea and Denmark upgraded bilateral relations to a comprehensive green strategic partnership in May 2021 to deepen cooperation on the climate and environment. The two countries have held an annual Green Growth Alliance meeting since 2011.

Frederiksen called to expand cooperation to offshore wind power, eco-friendly vessels and sustainable farming, as well as to quantum technology.

The Danish leader also expressed Europe’s deep concern over last week’s bilateral summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin and agreed to cooperate with South Korea for peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.

Describing Yoon as “Korea’s No. 1 salesperson,” press secretary Kim said the president during his New York trip “will work hard to expand the playing field of our people and companies in not only exports but in overseas expansion and attracting domestic investment from foreign companies.”

Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during their bilateral summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during their bilateral summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]