AUCKLAND, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday vowed efforts to further improve his country's relationship with New Zealand, saying the countries not only enjoy a long friendship but also share many values.
"The reason New Zealand and the Republic of Korea could enjoy friendship for a long time is because the two countries are similar in what they strive for," the president said in a meeting with some 300 South Korean residents in the Oceania country.
Moon arrived here Sunday on a state visit. He will hold a summit with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday.
"A country that loves people and where people come first, a child can enjoy life without worries, a country where being different is not considered being wrong, that is the country we are trying to build and that is the image of New Zealand that our people love," he said at the meeting.
The president noted the countries' friendship dated back to the 1950-53 Korean War when 6,000 out of New Zealand's entire military force of 10,000 helped defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion.
"I ask you to give a big round of applause to the people of New Zealand who demonstrated their friendship to us when we were in need," Moon said.
The South Korean president earlier began his state visit with a trip to the War Memorial in New Zealand to pay his respects to those who were killed in the Korean War.
Moon also expressed satisfaction over the increase in trade between the two countries since they implemented their bilateral free trade in 2015.
The president noted the countries' people-to-people exchanges were also on the rise with nearly 100,000 South Koreans visiting New Zealand each year.
"Each and every one of you are the key players who are helping to bring the two countries closer. The governments too are keeping pace. We will further develop the friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries so you could be more proud of what you have achieved," he said.
He also vowed to step up his efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.
"If the Korean Peninsula's dramatic change for peace succeeds, it will be a great pride to not only our people but our compatriots," Moon said.
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