Ahead of Lee’s trip, deputy minister to tour Africa

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Ahead of Lee’s trip, deputy minister to tour Africa

A senior foreign ministry official will visit four African countries next week, in a move to prepare for President Lee Myung-bak’s trip to the continent later this year, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon will leave Sunday for a seven-day trip that will take him to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Morocco and the Ivory Coast, ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said in a press briefing.

“The trip follows another four-nation Africa trip by Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo last month,” Kim said, adding that the trips are designed to strengthen Korea’s ties with Africa.

Shin’s destinations were Congo, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. Foreign ministry officials have said that trip was to select possible destinations for Lee’s visit. The upcoming visit by the deputy foreign minister serves the same purpose, sources said.

Since late last year, Blue House officials have said Lee will broaden his diplomatic horizons to Africa. In November, the government hosted the Korea-Africa forum, the second of its kind, in Seoul to build a bridge for presidential diplomacy. Lee invited delegates of 15 participating African nations and promised to share Korea’s expertise in development.

The government has also said it will double the official development assistance to Africa by 2012, from $100 million (114.9 trillion won) in 2008.

At the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea’s luncheon meeting yesterday, Kim Sung-hwan, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, said the government is changing its diplomatic focus with the “Global Korea” drive.

“Korea is expanding its network,” he said. “In the first year of Lee’s administration, diplomacy was focused on the four superpowers [the United States, Japan, China and Russia]. The second year’s approach was the New Asia Initiative, and now we will focus on Europe, Africa and South America.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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