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(3rd LD) Park calls for free trade deal with Mexico

All Headlines 10:21 April 04, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with cultural events)
By Kim Kwang-tae

MEXICO CITY, April 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Sunday toured a museum and watched a K-pop concert in Mexico City on the second day of her trip to Mexico.

She spent about an hour at the National Museum of Anthropology -- home to about 600,000 collections, including artifacts from the Aztec and Mayan civilizations before their conquest by the Spanish.

Park also attended a K-pop concert in Mexico City later in the day staged as a cultural exchange event between the two countries. The event drew some 3,200 people, mostly young Mexican fans of "hallyu," or the Korean wave.

The fans screamed as popular South Korean boy group Infinite sang songs at a theater. The cultural event also featured a performance of taekwondo, South Korea's martial art.

Spreading beyond China and Southeast Asian countries, the Korean wave has gained wide popularity in Mexico and other Central and South American countries in recent years.

Separately, Park has called for a free trade deal with Mexico in Seoul's latest push to make inroads into the emerging market, saying it would create a win-win situation for the two countries.

South Korea and Mexico launched free trade talks in 2007, but the negotiations have been stalled since 2008 due to strong opposition from the Mexican automobile industry.

Last year, South Korea asked Mexico to resume talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

"I think it's meaningful for South Korea and Mexico to sign a free trade agreement to expand trade and investment and strengthen economic cooperation," Park said in an interview with Mexico's major daily El Universal published on Sunday.

Park said a free trade deal, if signed, could create a win-win situation, as it could open a new gateway in Northeast Asia for Mexico, while South Korea can expand its access to North, Central and South America.

Mexico has become South Korea's largest trading partner in Latin America.

Bilateral trade volume between the two countries stood at US$14.4 billion last year, with South Korea's exports amounting to $10.8 billion and imports totaling $3.4 billion.

Park said the two countries can expand new business opportunities in energy and information and communication technology beyond the manufacturing sector.

She also called for strengthened cooperation between the sides to address concerns of South Korean investors, including Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-ranked carmaker.

Kia Motors has almost completed its plant in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon and is scheduled to start operations in May.

Kia Motors was promised, among other things, a free-of-charge land site for the plant and five-year corporate tax exemption.

Still, the local government of Nuevo Leon has asked for renegotiations with Kia Motors, raising the alarm that Kia Motors might not be able to start operations as scheduled.

Last month, Kia Motors said that there will be no delays in the planned launch of its plant.

Park praised Mexico for detaining a blacklisted North Korean freighter, calling it meaningful progress in the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The Mu Du Bong and its 33 North Korean crewmembers have been staying in Mexico since July 2014, when the 6,700-ton freighter ran aground on a reef off Tuxpan in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Mexico detained the ship after identifying it as belonging to the Ocean Maritime Management Company, which was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council for illegally shipping arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, on another vessel in 2013.

Park also vowed to bring about changes in North Korea through pressure and strict enforcement of the toughest sanctions imposed on North Korea over its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.


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