President Park Geun-hye and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg agreed to expand cooperation in other areas beyond the shipbuilding and offshore facilities sectors, Cheong Wa Dae said Friday.
Ships account for more than 90 percent of South Korea’s exports to Norway.
Bilateral trade between the two reached a record high of US$7.4 billion last year, compared with $1.7 billion in 2006.
Two-way trade has been on the rise since 2006 when a free trade deal between South Korea and the European Free Trade Association — composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — went into effect.
Park called for substantial cooperation in energy, the development of the Arctic region and defense, while Solberg hopes to expand cooperation in biotechnology, health tourism, and information and communications technology, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
Solberg invited South Korea to attend the Arctic Frontiers Conference to be held in January in 2017 in Norway. Park told Solberg that she will send a senior official to the international gathering that brings together officials from academia, government and business for sustainable development in the Arctic. Norway has hosted the conference since 2007.
Norway is a member of the Arctic Council, which sets the rules for the development of the polar region believed to have large untapped reserves of oil and gas.
In 2013, South Korea gained permanent observer status on the council, a move that allows Seoul to secure a bigger say in the intergovernmental gathering.
South Korea hopes to explore the northern polar route that holds huge potential for cutting costs and saving time for shipping companies.
Currently, South Korean ships use conventional shipping routes through the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal to reach Europe, a journey that takes about 30 days. In comparison, Arctic routes can cut the travel time by about half, which reduces shipping costs.
Park also reiterated calls for firm international sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Solberg vowed to closely cooperate with South Korea in enforcing the U.N. sanctions imposed on the North for its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.
Park also said South Korea will make an effort to provide assistance to the education sectors of developing countries.
In September, Park announced at the U.N. that South Korea will donate $200 million in aid to 15 poor countries under the “Better Life for Girls” initiative over the next five years.
The initiative aims to tackle gender inequality in education and help girls in developing countries unlock their full potential. It also calls for strengthening health services for girls in those countries.
Park also said she will push for labor reform to create new momentum for economic growth. Her latest comment came two days after her ruling Saenuri Party suffered a resounding defeat in parliamentary elections.