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(LEAD) S. Korea to help migrant issue in Latin America

All News 15:29 October 07, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with signing of letter of intent and details in paras 1-7; CHANGES headline)

SEJONG, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea signed a letter of intent Monday with the Inter-American Development Bank to help address the issue of migrants in Latin America, the finance ministry said.

The letter of intent was inked between South Korean Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki and Luis Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, at a Seoul hotel.

South Korea has contributed US$197 million to four trust funds operated by the IDB since joining the Washington-based bank in 2005.

The four funds are the Knowledge Partnership Korea Fund, the Korea Poverty Reduction Fund, the Korea Public Capacity Fund, and the Korea Private Sector Development and Innovation Fund.

South Korea's latest commitment would allow the bank to use $10 million to help address the issue of migrants in Latin America, according to the finance ministry.

Hong asked Moreno to push for cooperative projects with South Korean companies in such areas as the provision of mobile homes and health care for migrants.

The issue of migrants has gained global attention in recent months as many Central American migrants were traveling to try to reach the U.S. border to avoid poverty and violence in their home countries.

Earlier in the day, Hong called for the expansion of economic cooperation with Latin American countries beyond agricultural products and manufacturing goods.

Hong said South Korea and Latin America countries need to explore new growth engines, such as e-commerce, health care, artificial intelligence and other industries related to the fourth industrial revolution.

"I am confident that South Korea's economic cooperation with Latin America will continue to persist, though external conditions are getting worse due to the spread of new protectionism," Hong said in a speech at a business meeting between South Korea and Latin America at a Seoul hotel.

Key participants included Moreno; Jose Manuel Restrepo, Colombia's minister of commerce, industry and tourism; and Maria Luisa Hayem, El Salvador's minister of economy.

Bilateral trade and investment have been on the rise in recent years.

South Korea's investment in the Latin American region jumped to US$8.14 billion in 2018, up from $620 million in 2003. Trade volume between South Korea and Latin American nations stood at $51.5 billion in 2018, compared with $13.4 billion in 2003, according to South Korean data.

Last week, South Korea's free trade agreement with Honduras and Nicaragua went into effect as the first step of the comprehensive deal covering five Central American countries, also including Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama, according to the trade ministry.


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