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Park wins over hearts of Mexicans with Spanish

All News 16:22 April 05, 2016

By Kim Kwang-tae

MEXICO CITY, April 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has an ace up her sleeve that can potentially win over the hearts of foreign leaders and their people: her flair for languages.

On Monday, she displayed her Spanish skill when she held a luncheon meeting with her Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, after their summit at the presidential palace in Mexico City.

She expressed hope that the two countries can become true partners through frequent people exchanges.

Park cited Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz's quote: "Love is born at first sight; friendship of a frequent and lengthy exchange" in a speech at the luncheon meeting.

She ended her speech by calling Mexico "amigo para siempre," meaning friends for life.

This is not the first time that Park has used Spanish when she met with Pena Nieto.

The chief executive exchanged greetings with Pena Nieto in Spanish when they first met at the G-20 summit in Russia in September 2013.

The two leaders held summit talks a month later on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali.

Pena Nieto told Park in Bali that Park's greetings in Spanish at the G-20 summit was a very nice surprise. Pena Nieto told Park, "Me cae bien," meaning I like you. He also introduced Park to his wife as the South Korean president who can speak Spanish.

In 2014, she surprised Pope Francis during his visit to South Korea by saying, "La paz es un regalo que merece la pena," meaning, "Peace is a gift which is worth the effort" in English.

She also said her favorite Spanish phrase is, "La esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde," meaning that hope is something one holds onto until the very last moment. The pope answered by saying that hope is a gift, according to their conversation posted on the website of South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

In 2013, Park delivered a 20-minute speech in French during her trip to France in a gesture of friendship. The speech drew a standing ovation.

Park studied in France for half a year at the age of 22. In 1974, she was called back to Korea to serve as a stand-in first lady after her mother was killed by a pro-North Korean gunman from Japan in a failed assassination attempt on her father, President Park Chung-hee.

She has studied not just French but English, Chinese and Spanish as well.

When she visited Washington in 2013, she delivered the entire address at a joint session of Congress in English. During a visit to Beijing in 2013, she gave part of her address at a college in Chinese.


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