South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo is aiming to improve ties with Ankara as he is set to depart for a visit to Turkey on Sunday, his ministry said Thursday.
Local news agency Yonhap reported that he will "discuss ways to boost cooperation in the defense industry."
Turkey has already purchased K-9 artillery weapons from South Korea along with KT-1 trainer jets - the South's first entirely indigenous aircraft. Seoul and Ankara saw their upgraded bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) come into effect this week after it was expanded to include the services and investment sectors.
The South Korean government said Tuesday it is hoping to make new economic inroads in Turkey with the upgraded FTA.
The new FTA, which goes beyond goods into the services and investment sectors, was agreed on in 2015, just two years after the original trade pact went into force. It was only confirmed last year after President Moon Jae-in took office in the South. Though Seoul revealed at the time that certain processes would still have to be finalized.
Moon welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Seoul in May, when a joint press release stated "the South Korea-Turkey free trade agreement has become an important foundation of mutually beneficial economic cooperation by ensuring balanced growth of trade between the two countries."
With the new deal, which came into effect on Wednesday, South Korea's Trade Ministry said it is hoping there will be opportunities for South Korean firms in Turkey's movie and construction markets, according to local news agency Yonhap.
South Korean Defense Minister Song will stay in Turkey until Wednesday, following up on the defense cooperation agreement.
The last visit by a South Korean defense minister to Turkey was a decade ago. Song's week-long travels will also take him to India.
Meanwhile, his trip will allow him to temporarily escape intense scrutiny over a domestic scandal.
He is being forced to reform the Defense Security Command because of public anger that the ministry's intelligence unit was preparing for the possibility of martial law when South Korea's streets were regularly filled with anti-government protests ahead of ex-President Park Geun-hye's expulsion from office last year. The trade volume between the two countries, which stood at $6.5 billion in 2013, reached $7.2 billion last year, an increase of 9.8 percent. Turkey exported goods totaling around $584.1 million to South Korea last year, while its imports totaled $6.6 billion in the same period.
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