Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Wednesday to boost relations with South Korea in numerous areas ranging from trade to defense after an official welcoming ceremony and summit meeting with President Moon Jae-in in Seoul.
Erdogan’s two-day trip makes him Turkey’s first leader to pay a state visit to the South since the countries upgraded bilateral relations to the level of a strategic partnership in 2012, a year before signing a free trade agreement.
“The two leaders noted the South Korea-Turkey free trade agreement (FTA) has become an important foundation of mutually beneficial economic cooperation by ensuring balanced growth of trade between the two countries and agreed to quickly implement an agreement on the service industry and the investment sector within the framework of the South Korea-Turkey FTA,” a joint press release stated following Wednesday’s summit.
Just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took an unprecedented step onto South Korean soil, Erdogan also congratulated Moon on Friday’s Seoul-Pyongyang agreement to seek peace and prosperity on the peninsula.
Relations between Turkey and South Korea stretch back to the 1950s, when they forged a brotherhood during the Korean War. During the war Turkish forces served under the UN Command, and 774 Turkish soldiers were martyred.
But the primary focus of the Turkish president’s trip appears to be economic cooperation.
The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industries hosted business leaders at an event in Seoul Wednesday morning for the 150-member Turkish delegation to develop contacts.
“The role of companies is becoming more important to cement economic relations between the two nations,” South Korean Trade Minister Paik Un-gyu said during opening remarks, also promising government support in that regard.
Bilateral trade volume rose over 17 percent between 2012 and 2017, reaching $6.12 billion, based on Seoul’s official data.
Erdogan is set to see more of Moon beyond Wednesday evening’s state dinner, as they agreed to expand their MIKTA partnership — also including Mexico, Indonesia and Australia — from a forum of foreign ministers to one of leaders.