Park wows Mexicans with Spanish eloquence

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Park wows Mexicans with Spanish eloquence

President Park Geun-hye and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto agreed to hold working-level talks to resume discussions of a bilateral free trade agreement during a joint press conference in Mexico City on Monday.

This is the first time in eight years they will discuss resumption of FTA talks. Talks of a Korea-Mexico FTA began in 2007 but fell apart in 2008 because of opposition by Mexican automakers.

“I look forward for these working-level talks to bring to fruition creative ways to enable a win-win situation for both countries,” said Park at the press conference.

Park and Pena Nieto observed the signing of 34 memoranda of understanding in energy, transport, water resources management and other large-scale infrastructure projects.

The energy projects, secured through the agreements, are estimated to be worth some $17 billion, according to the Blue House.

An Chong-bum, senior presidential secretary for the economy, said, “The Mexican government is looking to invest some $590 billion into the country’s infrastructure” and called the agreements “the largest-scale economic cooperation between the two countries to date.”

The two sides agreed to resolve a dispute between Kia Motors and the local government of Nuevo Leon, a state in northern Mexico, where Korea’s No. 2 carmaker is building an assembly plant.

During the official luncheon after the bilateral summit, Park also flaunted her Spanish skills, quoting a line from a poem by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, a Nobel Prize laureate in literature.

“Love is born at first sight; the friendship of a frequent and lengthy exchange,” she recited in Spanish, saying that Paz is well-known in Korea.

Later during the luncheon, she said, “Viva Mexico! Viva Corea!”

Park also attended a large-scale business forum at a hotel in Mexico City later in the day, where she again flashed her Spanish skills, saying in her congratulatory speech, “Juntos vamos haciendo camino,” or “We are making our way together.”

A total of 95 Korean companies and 181 buyers attended the business forum, resulting in 33 contracts that totaled $86 million.

This is not the first time Park has put her Spanish skills to diplomatic use. In September 2013, Park attended the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Russia and impressed President Pena Nieto by exchanging greetings in Spanish.

When Pope Francis visited Korea in August 2014, Park also conversed with the Pontiff numerous times in Spanish.

During her visit to Colombia in April last year, Park likewise quoted a line from the great Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez over an official dinner with President Juan Manuel Santos.

A Blue House official said, “President Park, following the advice of late First Lady Yuk Young-soo, began learning foreign languages during her early school days, and in 1972, she was invited to Spain to attend the launching ceremony for a Spanish oil tanker in place of the first lady where she delivered a five-minute speech in Spanish.”

She was only 20 years old, during the time her father, former President Park Chung Hee, was in office.

BY SARAH KIM, SHIN YONG-HO [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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