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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visit to Seoul beginning on May 16
By Ataur Rahman
Bangladesh Correspondent
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina visit to Seoul beginning on May 16 will invite South Korean President Lee Myung Bak Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh sources said here on May 11 .

Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh sources said , Bangladesh and South Korea are expected to sign separate agreements and MoUs on export of human resources, energy and ICT, soft loan, environment, and cultural exchange during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's three-day visit to Seoul beginning on May 16.

Sources said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak would hold official talks on May 18, which is expected to be followed by signing of a number of agreements, including export of skilled and semi-skilled human resources, ODA, Energy and ICT, and cultural exchange.

South Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh Taiyoung Cho addressing a press conference at the embassy yesterday disclosed that both the countries would sign separate MoUs on the granting of soft loans from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), environmental and cultural exchange during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister.On possible agreements between the two countries, he did not elaborate the nature of the agreements but said, "We are still working on it."

Replying to a question, Cho indicated that the official development assistance (ODA) to Bangladesh would increase three-fold to US$ 3 billion by 2015 from the current US$ 1 billion.As of March this year, South Korea provided Bangladesh with 13 soft loans amounting to US$ 4.1 million and grant assistance amounting US$ 36 million from 1991 to 2009.

The Korean envoy said that his country would invest over US$ 1 billion in the Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ), which is now under construction in Bangladesh. The investment would generate employment opportunities for 3.5 lakh Bangladeshis. This will contribute to transforming Bangladesh into one of the major industrial hubs in South Asia, he said.

The South Korean Ambassador termed the Prime Minister's visit to Seoul as very important saying it is a valuable chance to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. "Our President is looking forward to meeting with the Bangladesh's Prime Minister," he said.

This will be the first visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister to Seoul in almost 15 years. In May 1995, Khaleda Zia visited Seoul as Prime Minister while in November 2002, Prime Minister Kim Suk-soo visited Bangladesh.

The Korean envoy said his country is also eager to cooperate in the field of renewable energy and coal mining, shipbuilding and ICTs and to extend technological support. He noted that the upward trend in trade between the two nations, with the highest amount recorded at US$ 1264 million in 2008.

In 2009 however, that trade figure suffered a slight downturn, coming down to US$ 1186 million with Korean exports to Bangladesh South Korea is expected to employ more Bangladeshi workers this year while the East Asian economic giant planned enhanced investments in Bangladesh creating some 3.5 million jobs at a specialized export processing zone in Chittagong, South Korean envoy in Dhaka said here..

Speaking at a press briefing ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's planned Seoul visit next week, Ambassador Taiyoung Cho said announcements on employment of more Bangladeshis under South Korean Appointment Permit System was expected during the three- day tour.

He said Korean authorities would employ 24,000 workers this year from 15 countries increasing its quota for Bangladeshis.

Cho said his country also planned to make a huge investment in Bangladesh generating 3.5 lakh jobs at the under construction Korean EPZ in southeastern port city of Chittagong.

The envoy said the two countries were set to sign separate MOUs on the granting of soft loans from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund, and environmental and cultural exchange.

He did not disclose the size of the loans to be granted for Bangladesh but hinted that Korean assistance to Bangladesh under its official development assistance (ODA) could increase three- fold to US$ 3 billion by 2015 from the current US$ 1 billion.

South Korea provided US$ 36 million of grant assistance to Bangladesh from 1991 to 2009.Cho termed the Bangladesh premier's Seoul visit to be "very important", expecting it to create a "valuable chance" to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries as Hasina will hold talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on a wide range of bilateral issues. This will be the first visit by a Bangladesh Prime Minister to Seoul in almost 15 years.

Foreign Ministry sources said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak would hold official talks on May 18, which is expected to be followed by signing of a number of agreements, including export of skilled and semi-skilled human resources, ODA, Energy and ICT, and cultural exchange. On possible agreements between the two countries, he did not elaborate the nature of the agreements but said, "We are still working on it."

In 2010, 85 percent of total tariff lines were opened for Bangladeshi products with duty and quota-free access. This move is expected to reduce the massive imbalance in the trade figure between the two friendly countries.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh will is expected to return home on May 21.

Minister for Finance AMA Muhith, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Dipu Moni, Prime Minister's Adviser Masihur Rahman and Special Envoy to the PM Mohammad Ziauddin are expected to accompany the Prime Minister during her tour.

(Ataur Rahman, Dhaka, Bangladesh ).



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Mr. Ataur Rahman serves as Bangladesh Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He eanred his Master of Commerce degree from Dhaka University in 1985. Mr. Rahman has vast journalistic rexperience including his stints at "The Daily Janata" and "The Dainik Bangla."

 

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