Park calls Antarctica while in Chile

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Park calls Antarctica while in Chile

President Park Geun-hye praised the work of 17 South Korean researchers stationed in Antarctica in a phone call with the head of the King Sejong Station as she wrapped up her trip to Chile Thursday.

Speaking with Ahn In-young, the leader of Korea’s oldest research station in Antarctica, by phone, Park told the researchers to look after their health while doing their best work in the frozen continent, the presidential office said. South Korea established the King Sejong Station, named after King Sejong the Great of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), in 1988.

When the Korean staff go to or from the station, they travel through Chile. The Korean base is on King George Island, which also has a base run by Chile.

Ahn told the president the location of their station offers them great opportunities to study global climate change. She added that she and 16 researchers are drawing on the station’s 28-year history to pursue their studies.

Park’s call came a day after she and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile agreed to cooperate in research on Antarctica during a summit.

On Thursday Park left for Brazil, the last leg of a four-nation swing in South America, which Park called a land of opportunities.

Park was to have a summit with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in the capital city Brasilia at 11:20 p.m. Friday to discuss ways to bolster economic ties between the two countries at a time when bilateral trade jumped to $ 15.2 billion in 2013 from $9 billion in 2008.

Park’s meeting with Rousseff carries symbolic meaning as well. Both are their countries’ first female heads of state. Rousseff was elected in 2010 and is now in a second term.

Brazil was the first country in South America that opened diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1959.

While the presidential office has tried to emphasize the economic gains in fields like technology and health care that the South American presidential trip would generate, it was overshadowed by a bribery scandal set in motion by the suicide of businessman Sung Wan-jong that has implicated members of Park’s inner circle. Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo already expressed his intention to resign amid snowballing allegations that he received payoffs from the late Lee.

Park is expected to accept his resignation upon her return and work on screening possible candidates to replace Lee.

Park will arrive in Seoul on Monday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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