In what could well be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last foreign visit ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Indian leader will embark on a two-day visit to South Korea starting February 21, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
During his visit, which is at the invitation of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the Prime Minister will in person receive the Seoul Peace Prize, Secretary (East) in the MEA, Vijay Thakur Singh informed media persons.
The award had been conferred upon the Indian Prime Minister by the Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation in October last year, amid protests by more than 20 Korean NGOs at the time, which had demanded that the decision be retracted owing to the Gujarat riots that happened when Modi was the chief minister of the state.
The Prime Minister will be awarded the Seoul Peace Prize on the last day of his visit on Feb 22, before he heads back to India, said Singh.
Announcing the schedule of PM’s visit, the MEA secretary said that Modi would land in Seoul on the forenoon of Feb 21. The PM is slated to address the India- Korea Business Forum and meet delegates from the India-Republic of Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group on the same day.
Among other planned commitments on Feb 21, PM Modi will also be addressing a gathering of the India diaspora, inaugurate a bust of Mahatma Gandhi on a university campus and meet the mayor of Gimhae City. In the evening, PM Modi will be hosted for a private dinner by the Korean President.
According to some Korean historians, Suriratna, an Indian princess hailing from Ayodhya, moved to South Korea some 2,000 years ago where she married a local king and started the Karak dynasty.
The meeting between the mayor and PM Modi follows the visit of South Korea’s first lady Kim Jung-sook to India in November last year, the MEA said.
During her visit to India from Nov 4-7, Jung-sook attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the Queen Suriratna memorial in Ayodhya.
“Cultural and people-to-people ties are a strong component of relations between the two countries,” Vijay Thakur Singh said.
On the second day of his visit, on Feb 22, Modi and Moon will have a summit level meeting at Blue Palace, the official residence of the Korean President, which will be followed by a joint press statement.
Later in the day, the PM and his delegation will be hosted for a private dinner by their Korean counterparts and later receive the Seoul Peace Prize, the MEA said.
Reiterating that South Korea was an important partner in India’s “economic modernisation,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that significant investment from South Korea into India was on the cards during the visit.
Trade ties have between the countries have grown from $16.8 billion in 2017 to $20 billion, he noted.
South Korean automobile giant Kia Motors had in 2017 pledged a Rs 10,000 crore investment in Andhra Pradesh, with Hyundai Motors also having committed an investment of $900 million in the country recently, MEA said.
The government officials noted that South Korean smartphone brand Samsung had also pledged an investment of $900 million to develop its factory in Noida last year.
“Our relations with Korea are a logical extension of our Act East Policy,” MEA said.