MR meets South Korean leader

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa held a summit in Seoul Tuesday to discuss ways to strengthen economic and other cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile South Korea said it will provide Sri Lanka US$200 million in development loans that can be used for future infrastructure building by the South Asian country.

Rajapaksa arrived in Seoul Monday for a four-day state visit.

During Tuesday’s summit, Lee said Sri Lanka’s economy has grown steadily and its political situation stabilized due to Rajapaksa’s leadership. Lee also thanked Sri Lanka for sending a pair of elephants two years ago as a token of friendship between the two countries.

“In particular, more than 20,000 Sri Lankan workers are contributing to the economy of South Korea and they are beloved by South Korean businessmen,” Lee said during the summit, referring to migrant workers from the South Asian nation.

Lee said the two countries agreed to expand the Sri Lankan workforce in South Korea.

Further details of the agreement were not immediately available.

Rajapaksa’s trip to Seoul also includes a forum with business leaders of the two countries and a meeting with leading South Korean trade organizations.

South Korea will meanwhile provide Sri Lanka US$200 million in development loans that can be used for future infrastructure building by the South Asian country, the South Korean Finance Ministry said.

Under a memorandum of understanding, the money to come from South Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) will be used in various agricultural and public work projects as well as education and health-related programs, it said.

“The agreement is important because it raises transparency on the amount of money that will be offered, making it easier for Colombo to set up its national development plans,” the ministry said.

The EDCF can make it possible for local companies to take part in the ongoing 10-year national infrastructure building plan that runs through 2016, it said.

The loans can also strengthen bilateral economic ties with the country that buys South Korean cars, knitted goods and synthetic rubber. Two-way trade between the two countries reached $426 million last year, with South Korea posting a $262 million surplus.

In the past, Seoul provided development loans to 22 projects worth $460 million, making Sri Lanka the fourth-largest beneficiary of official overseas assistance. (South Korean agencies)