President Maithripala Sirisena returned to the island yesterday (30) after completing a successful three-day State visit to Republic of Korea on an invitation extended by the Korean President Moon Jae-in, strengthening the foreign relations and bringing many developmental benefits to the country.
The visit took place in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and the Republic of Korea.
President Maithripala Sirisena was conferred with the Honorary Citizenship of Seoul Metropolitan Government. It was conferred by Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government, Park Won-soon at a special ceremony held at the Mayor’s Office in Seoul on November 30.
President Maithripala Sirisena received an unexpected warm welcome from Korean President Moon Jae-In on November 28, a day ahead of the scheduled official meeting. President Sirisena, who arrived in Seoul on Nov.28 visited the famous Buddhist place of worship, Jogyesa Temple and was surprised to find President Moon waiting to receive him together with the Most Venerable Seol Jeong, head of the Jogye Order, the most prominent Buddhist sect in Korea.
President Sirisena said that although he had visited many countries as President, he could not meet a single leader before the official scheduled meetings. “This magnanimous gesture of humbleness shows the greatness of President Moon and his affection for Sri Lanka and its people,” he said.
President Sirisena held the official meeting with the Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House, the official residence of President Moon.In the summit meeting and the state dinner, held on November 29, the two Heads of State deepened their friendship and had discussions on ways to enhance the bilateral relations.
To strengthen cooperation in the economic sphere for mutual benefit, the two Heads of State welcomed the signing of the Agreement on Economic Cooperation, which provides for the establishment of a joint commission to promote bilateral investment, trade and tourism. They also noted the importance of signing of an MOU between the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, and agreed to further expand investment opportunities for Korean and Sri Lankan companies. They also welcomed the Business Summit in which President Sirisena and related companies’ representatives took part.
President Sirisena expressed his deep appreciation for the employment opportunities granted to Sri Lankan youth in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). Acknowledging the contribution of Sri Lankan workers to the economies of the two countries, the two Heads of State agreed to further enhance cooperation under the EPS.
The two Heads of State noted the contribution to Sri Lanka’s nursing education through the Korean government’s Leading University Project for International Cooperation. They also discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation under the Global Korea Scholarship program and promote Korean language education in Sri Lanka.
Acknowledging the bilateral cultural ties throughout history and in recent times, the two Heads of State welcomed the continued increase in people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. They agreed to further promote such 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. They expressed satisfaction with the many cultural events held in the two countries in 2017 to mark the 40th anniversary, including the issuance of commemorative stamps by both countries.
President Sirisena assured to the Sri Lankan community in South Korea that he would never betray the nation or the country. Addressing the Sri Lankan community in Republic of Korea, he said that he came to power with the pure intention of rectifying the historical errors and to ensure that the people of Sri Lanka would live in peace, harmony and communal coexistence.
President Sirisena also paid respects to the Korean martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice during three different wars with invading forces. He visited the War Heroes Memorial Tower situated at the National Cemetery in Seoul and he was received by National Cemetery Superintendent, An Suhyun.
Members of Korean Parliament representing leading political parties lauded the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka under the leadership of President Sirisena in national reconstruction and reconciliation and promotion of human rights when the representatives of Korea-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group called on President Sirisena at the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt in Seoul on November 29.