South Korean president vows to expand aid contribution, mineral ties with Africa

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says the country will expand development aid to Africa and pursue deeper cooperation with the region on critical minerals and technology

Kim Tong-Hyung
Tuesday 04 June 2024 06:58 BST

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South Korea will expand development aid to Africa and pursue deeper cooperation with the region on critical minerals and technology, President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday as he hosted a meeting with dozens of African leaders in Seoul.

In a speech to the Korea-Africa Summit, Yoon also urged African countries to take firmer steps in an international pressure campaign against North Korea. The North recently accelerated its tests of nuclear-capable weapons systems and flew hundreds of balloons to drop tons of trash and manure on the South as relations between the war-divided Koreas worsen.

Representatives from 48 African nations, including 25 heads of state, are attending the two-day summit, where talks are expected to focus on trade and investment.

Trade with African nations currently accounts for less than 2% of South Korea’s total imports and exports. South Korean officials say expanding ties in the area of minerals and resources would help improve the country’s supply chain resilience in key industries such as batteries.

Yoon said South Korea plans to expand its cumulative development aid contributions to Africa to around $10 billion by 2030 and to separately provide $14 billion in export financing to encourage South Korean investment in the region.

“We will also explore sustainable ways of cooperation in issues that are directly tied to future growth, including the stable supply of critical minerals and digital transformation,” Yoon said.

South Korea’s outreach to Africa also comes at a time when North Korea is becoming more active in trying to break out of diplomatic isolation and build cooperation with countries confronting the United States, as its leader Kim Jong Un embraces the idea of a “new Cold War.”

Kim in recent months has boosted the visibility of his ties with Russia and China and sent a government delegation to Iran.

North Korea also has long-standing relations with several African nations, including Uganda, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, although some governments in the region have scaled back their ties with Pyongyang amid tightened U.N. sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs. U.N. experts for years have accused the North of raising illicit revenue from Africa through infrastructure projects, weapons sales and other activities.

Yoon said the security situation of the Korean Peninsula is in a “very serious state” following a series of North Korean provocations and military activities, including a failed launch of a military reconnaissance satellite last month. He expressed hopes for coordinating with African nations to build pressure on Pyongyang.

“Along with our friends in Africa, South Korea will fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions and work to safeguard peace on the Korean Peninsula and the international community,” Yoon said.

In a statement in May, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s relations with Africa will “continue to develop invariably” and that it will continue to support the region’s struggle for “independent development under the banner of non-alignment as well as independence against imperialism.”

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