The presidents of South Korea and Egypt have agreed to boost energy cooperation and trade between their two nations. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak Tuesday on the first leg of a three-nation tour of Africa.
Talks between Mr. Mubarak and his South Korean counterpart included regional stability in both the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, but the main focus was on strengthening trade and economic relations, especially in the energy sector.
It is the first time any South Korean president has visited Egypt. Mr. Roh is on a three-nation tour of Africa, the first visit by a South Korean leader to the continent in 24 years. He is eager to strengthen ties with countries that produce oil and natural gas, to help secure energy supplies needed for South Korea's export-driven economy.
The two leaders said they discussed energy cooperation and possible South Korean investment in Egypt's oil and gas sectors. They also signed a pact to cooperate in the information technology industry, an area where South Korea is a world leader and Egypt aims to become a regional one.
Mr. Roh said the two countries have agreed to foster close cooperation on high speed Internet, mobile telecommunication, digital multimedia broadcasting and wireless broadband. He said he is optimistic about the prospects that lie ahead, of Egypt's drive to build an information technology hub in the Middle East and Africa.
Answering a reporter's question about the heavy trade imbalance between the two countries, favoring South Korea, Mr. Roh acknowledged that South Korean investment is lower than it could be.
He said the largest obstacle to increasing investment in Egypt may be a lack of information regarding opportunities in Egypt, or perhaps the lack of a prominent success story from Korean companies investing there.
The two leaders also discussed North Korea's nuclear program, and Mr. Roh thanked Egypt for what he called its unwavering support for Seoul's North Korea policy. Mr. Mubarak has close ties with Pyongyang and has visited North Korea several times.
President Roh will be in Egypt until Thursday, and then moves on to Nigeria and Algeria, two top oil- and gas-producing countries. Energy cooperation is on the agenda in both nations.
The South Korean leader is also seeking African support for his foreign minister's bid to become the next U.N. secretary general. Last month, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon announced his candidacy to replace Kofi Annan when his term expires at the end of the year. The foreign minister is accompanying the South Korean leader on his Africa trip.
In an interview with Egyptian state television, President Roh said he plans to triple South Korean development aid to Africa over the next two years.