President Rivlin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in
President Rivlin with South Korean President Moon Jae-inKobi Gideon (GPO)

Israeli President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin on Monday held a working meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

The meeting took place at The Blue House, the official residence of the President of Korea in Seoul. At the conclusion of their meeting, memorandums of understandings were signed between the two countries in the field of energy and education in the presence of the presidents. After that, the Korean president hosted his Israeli counterpart for an official lunch. At the opening of the meal, the anthems of the two countries were played and the two of them made brief introductory remarks.

During their meeting, the presidents spoke about the growing ties between the two countries and where the cooperation can be expanded, and Moon offered condolences on the death of Rivlin's wife Nechama. Thanking Moon, Rivlin emphasized that Nechama had been very eager to meet Moon and his wife. Later, Rivlin invited the South Korean president and his wife to come to Israel on an official visit in the near future.

President Rivlin noted the many similarities between Korea and Israel. Both have a long history, both gained independence in the same year and both turned every challenge into opportunity. Rivlin also expressed his wish for even greater cooperation between the two countries, with the assistance of the special delegations accompanying this important visit of senior members from the world of economics, business, innovation, academia and science.

"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.”

He also said a record 45,000 tourists visited Israel in 2018, but that the full potential is not being realized due to the stringent Korean travel warning about Israel, and asked Moon to reexamine the warning, which does not reflect the security situation in Israel.

Rivlin also told President Moon about his plan to turn the monasteries in the Jordan Valley into a pilgrimage area, something which is now possible due to the recent removal of landmines. Rivlin emphasized that the process had received the consent and blessing of all the parties involved, and of his meetings with the Pope in which they have discussed the project over several years.

He also said Israel would be happy to share with South Korea insights and knowledge that Israel has developed in facing threats in various fields, and expressed his appreciation for South Korea's contribution to the stability of the Middle East and to the UNIFIL peacekeeping force.

President Moon expressed his amazement at what Israel has achieved over the years and said Israel is an inspiration for him: "Your education system and the famous Israeli chutzpah are a model for us," said the South Korean president.

Moon stressed that he sees great scope for progress in trade relations between the two countries and that the negotiations between the two countries will be gain momentum in the spirit of the president's important visit to South Korea.

"I am truly happy and excited to welcome you to the first summit meeting in since 2010," he said. "Israel and Korea share common democratic and economic values, and our relationship has grown stronger over the years, beginning with the establishment of relations in 1962. Our bilateral ties are reaching new heights with a trade relationship of $ 2.7 billion last year. We have also made great progress in relationships that help develop innovation, especially in the field of autonomous vehicles, thanks to the joint development fund that our governments have been financing since 2001."

"Since our two countries share similar economic structures and the same belief in the importance of innovation and development, I believe that we can significantly advance bilateral ties. If we succeed in concluding the free trade agreement soon, our economic cooperation will expand and be reflected in greater investment, trade and more. Israel is known as a start-up nation, with the most startups in the world, and I look forward to learning about the Israeli success story."

"Seventeen years after your last visit to Korea as Minister of Communications, I am sure that we will be able to further promote cooperation and bilateral relations between the countries in your visit, and that it will be fruitful and successful."

At lunch, Rivlin presented his South Korean counterpart with the Baba Kamma tractate of the Talmud, reflecting the profound interest and study of the Talmud 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," he said.

"I believe that Israel and South Korea can work together to spread the blessings of technology and innovation throughout the Middle East. President Moon, Let us work together to bring our economies, our countries and our peoples closer together. Here with me are our finest brains, leaders of Israel's finest universities, higher educational system and Academy of Science and Humanities, leaders from the public and private sector in the fields of hi-tech, cyber, health and defense. Let us explore the miracles we can make together."