ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Chung Hong-won has stated that Pakistan and Korea should expand their ties in trade, economy and energy sectors and enhance their political relations by increasing personnel exchanges in the private sector too.

“Korea and Pakistan share a long history of exchanges. There is a great potential for further development of the relations between the two countries and indeed they are currently being further developed,” Prime Minister of South Korea Chung Hong-won, who is in Pakistan on a four-day official visit, said in an exclusive interview with The Nation.

This is the first visit by a South Korean prime minister to Pakistan since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1983.

Chung Hong-won dilated on a broad range of issues and bilateral relations between his country and Pakistan, and elaborated that during the Korean War, Pakistan provided relief goods to Korea, and when Pakistan suffered large scale flooding in 2010 and an earthquake in 2013, Korea provided support to Pakistan. The M-2 motorway connecting Islamabad and Lahore was built by Daewoo Company, and Korean enterprises are currently seeking to engage in business activities in Pakistan, he said.

“I believe that all of these serve to well show the thriving ties between us, from far back in history to the current day,” he said.

He further said that although there are close ties of cooperation between the two countries, there is an imbalance in the high-level officials’ exchanges between the two countries. However, the Korean government values Pakistan as a major partner for cooperation and places great importance on strengthening the cooperation, he said.

“Kang, Chang-hee, the Chairman of the National Assembly, visited Pakistan, and less than three months since that visit, as prime minister, I am now visiting Pakistan. This clearly shows that Korea takes a particular interest in Pakistan,” he said, adding that as major countries of the Northeast and Southwest Asian regions respectively, there is indeed a strong basis for cooperation between the two countries such as cooperation in political and foreign affairs, mutually beneficial economic structures, and increasing exchanges in the private sector.

“I believe that this shows the potential for development between the two countries in the future,” he added.

To a question about expanding ties in trade, economy and other fields, the prime minister said that exchanges between the two nations lay an important foundation for the development of the relations between the two nations, and the facilitation of such exchanges can play a big role in further consolidating the basis of bilateral cooperation in various fields.

“In this regard, I note with great satisfaction that institutions for education in the Korean language have been established in Pakistan and Pakistani people are increasingly interested in studying and seeking jobs in Korea, and Korean appliances and IT products are gaining increasing popularity,” he said, adding that he believed that cultural exchanges, and thriving two-way personnel exchanges between the two countries are vital elements in promoting ties.

About tensions in Korean Peninsula, the South Korean prime minister said the Republic of Korea and the DPRK have been divided for nearly 70 years.

“By 2015, the Republic of Korea and the DPRK will have been divided for 70 years. Now is the time to open an era of unification on the Korean Peninsula, breaking free of conflicts and the threat of war and nuclear weapons. The unification of the two countries is the way for our people and the people of the DPRK to be free of fear of war and share freedom and happiness,” he added.

He said that President Park recently announced in Dresden “an initiative for peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula” which comprised practical and feasible proposals for unification such as; first, taking up the agenda for humanity; second, building infrastructure for the co-prosperity of South and North Korea; and, third, integration between the people of the two countries.”

“In particular, we will continue to implement humanitarian assistance to North Korea and propose exchanges, like the recent reunion of family members separated by the Korean War,” he said, adding that one of the greatest obstacles to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the North Korean nuclear issue.

Despite concerns and opposition in the international community, North Korea has recently posed even more serious threats to regional peace and stability by launching missiles on several occasions and mentioning the possibility of another nuclear test, he said.

“We are ready to have dialogue with North Korea only if the meeting can bring about substantial advances for denuclearisation through sincere action by the DPRK. It is important that the North Korean leadership decides to renounce all its nuclear weapons and programme, and that the international community help to establish an environment in which North Korea has no other option but to embrace change itself,” he said, explaining the main stumbling block in improvement of ties.

He further said the Northeast Asian countries concur that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula contribute to the fostering of peace and security in the region. “They are still cooperating closely to solve challenging issues such as the North Korea nuclear issue as seen in the recent trilateral meeting between South Korea, the United States and Japan,” he said.

Asked to comment on Pakistan as a country fighting the war against terrorism and suffering from ailing economy, he said even in the face of a situation in which the whole country had been devastated and the economic foundation had been destroyed due to the Korean War, Korea achieved the remarkable level of economic development we see today.

This was possible due to a harmonious combination of three factors: a great enthusiasm for education, the determination to achieve economic development and the key policies pursued by the government, he said.

“Pakistan is currently experiencing some difficulties such as terrorism and the economic crisis. I believe Pakistan can take great strides in terms of national development as the Pakistani people, with the benefit of distinguished leadership, unite in pursuit of common goals under the major policies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the recovery of the economy and the stabilisation of the domestic situation,” he commented.

To a question about security situation in Afghanistan, he said that the international community’s endeavours for the reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan have notably improved the security environment in the nation by contributing to enhancing the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces.

“Nonetheless, there are still various threats to the stability of Afghanistan, including the threat posed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups,” he said.

“I think it is very encouraging for the future of the country that the presidential elections, which was held on April 5, proceeded relatively smoothly,” he said, expressing hope that the bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan will be signed as soon as possible, thereby paving the way for the international community to make continued efforts for the establishment of permanent peace.