MB eulogizes his ‘close friend’ Ethiopia’s MelesPresident Lee Myung-bak yesterday deeply mourned the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, issuing a special statement of condolence recalling the close friendship they developed and underscoring how hard the late leader worked to pull the African nation out of poverty.
Meles died suddenly on Aug. 20 from an unidentified illness at the age of 57 after two decades at the helm of the African nation. The late leader was scheduled to be buried in a state funeral yesterday that Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan was to attend as a special envoy of Lee.
Lee issued a long statement yesterday to mourn the prime minister’s passing, calling Meles “a close friend,” “a warm-hearted and passionate gentleman” and “a truly bright mind who lived an intense and moving life.” Lee also pledged to honor all commitments Seoul made to help with Ethiopia’s economic development.
“We all have just lost a great leader of Ethiopia and a preeminent advocate for Africa and the developing world. On this occasion, I offer my deepest condolences to the people of Ethiopia,” Lee said in the statement. “I pray for the repose of a truly bright mind who lived an intense and moving life - my close friend.”
Last year, Lee made a state visit to Ethiopia, becoming the first Korean president to do so. Ethiopia was the only black African nation that shed blood for South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, with more than 6,000 Ethiopian troops fighting alongside the South. More than 120 of them were killed in battles.
During the visit, Lee also engaged in volunteer work, spraying disinfectant in alleys and toilets at poverty-stricken villages, one of a series of activities aimed at repaying Korea’s debt to its wartime ally. The volunteer service “was the most rewarding experience in my life,” Lee said in the statement. “I firmly believe that his living legacies will grow into a big tree in the heart of each Ethiopian, enabling the country to stand tall in the center of world history again. The Republic of Korea will continue to honor all the promises it has made to Ethiopia and stand by its people.”
Lee said his friendship with Meles developed rapidly since they first met in 2009 at a G-20 summit. The two leaders met on as many as eight different occasions, every time having “heart-to-heart” discussions on a wide range of issues, including the development of Ethiopia, Africa and developing nations, Lee added.