President Reuven Rivlin on Monday met with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, during an official visit to the East Asian country, and the two leaders signed agreements for increased cooperation in the fields of energy and education.
The meeting in Seoul began with Moon offering condolences to Rivlin on the recent death of his wife, Nechama. Rivlin thanked his counterpart and said that his late wife had been very eager to meet the South Korean president and his wife, before extending an invitation for the two to visit Jerusalem.
Rivlin began by noting the similarities between Israel and South Korea, the president’s office said in a readout, before expressing a wish for greater cooperation between the two nations.
“We have turned every challenge into an opportunity,” Rivlin said, “and that is the real secret to our growth as a nation. We have built an army that will protect us, and a strong, growing economy. We have developed flourishing agriculture and brought water to the desert, and you have developed industry that the world looks up to.”
The president also noted that 45,000 tourists visited Israel from South Korea in 2018, before asking Moon to review the travel warning in place which may be preventing the industry from realizing its full potential.
Rivlin also said that the two countries face similar security threats, and offered Israel’s expertise on the matter.
Moon said in response that he is amazed by the progress made by Israel in such a short time since its founding in 1948.
“Your education system and the famous Israeli chutzpah are a model for us,” said the South Korean president.
Rivlin gifted Moon with the Baba Kama tractate of the Talmud in light of the recent increase in study of Jewish texts in South Korea.
“Both the Jewish and Korean civilizations are based on education and the study of ancient sources of knowledge, including the Talmud, which it is my pleasure to give to you, while always seeking to acquire new knowledge and ideas,” Rivlin said.
The president was accompanied on his trip to South Korea by two delegations from Israel’s business and academic sectors, led by Adiv Baruch, chair of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, and Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the Council for Higher Education Planning and Budgeting Committee.
He was welcomed into the country on Sunday by Park Yoon-sun, minister for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and Startups, the president’s office said in a statement.
During his visit, the delegations are expected to sign agreements for further cooperation between Israel and South Korea.
On Wednesday, Rivlin will hold a working meeting with Moon and will be guest of honor at a lunch hosted by the South Korean president. Rivlin will later tour the Hyundai Motor Company and meet with the Israeli business delegation joining his visit, the statement from his office said.
Israel and South Korea established diplomatic relations in 1962 and Israel opened an embassy in the country in 1992.
Rivlin’s visit comes as Israel’s synchronized swimming national team made history Sunday by earning a place in the finals of the World Championships being held in South Korea. A spokesperson for the president said Rivlin is not scheduled to watch the team perform in Tuesday’s final.
In November, South Korea said it was purchasing two advanced radar systems from Israel that are meant to improve its ability to detect incoming missiles, like those that could be launched by North Korea. The two Green Pine radar detectors will be provided by the ELTA Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of the state-owned IAI Israel Aerospace Industries.
Stuart Winer and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.