Yoon departs for France to promote Expo bid, Vietnam for state visit

President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee depart on the presidential jet at Seoul Air Base in Gyeonggi, kicking off a weeklong, two-country trip to France and Vietnam on Monday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee kicked off a six-day, two-leg overseas trip Monday to France to unfold diplomacy promoting Korea's 2030 World Expo bid and Vietnam to strengthen economic cooperation.

Yoon will attend the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris and give an English-language speech Tuesday on Korea's bid to host the World Expo in Busan.

Yoon will make a presentation at the BIE's 172nd general assembly, joined by notable speakers such as the Korean singer of "Gangnam Style" (2012), Psy, startup leaders and academics, according to the presidential office in a statement Sunday.

The president will appear as the last speaker of the presentation to "strongly express Korea's will to host the World Expo in Busan and draw an enthusiastic response and support from member countries," his office said.

Karina, leader of K-pop girl group aespa, and soprano Jo Sumi, will also make appearances through video in support of the bid.

This marks the fourth out of five rounds of presentations, and the 179-member BIE, the international body that oversees the Expo, will make a final selection by secret ballot in November.

Korea is competing for the 2030 World Expo bid against Saudi Arabia's Riyadh, Ukraine's Odesa and Italy's Rome.

A 19-member business delegation, including leaders of Korea's top conglomerates, will attend the BIE general assembly alongside the president, according to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Yoon will also have a luncheon meeting and summit with French President Emmanuel Macron at Élysée Palace in Paris to discuss a range of issues including economy and security.

A key ring attached to first lady Kim Keon-hee's handbag shows the phrase "Busan is ready." Kim and President Yoon Suk Yeol left for Paris to promote Busan's bid for the World Expo 2030 on Monday. [YONHAP]

On Wednesday, Yoon will attend an official World Expo reception hosted by Korea to rally support from foreign dignitaries.

During the trip, Yoon will also meet with overseas Koreans living in Paris, hold a dialogue with future generations, take part in a digital vision forum and attend an investment declaration ceremony for European companies.

In an opinion piece published in Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper, on Saturday, Yoon said that South Korea, recently elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from 2024 to 2025, is ready to cooperate closely with France, one of five permanent members, in international security, including the war in Ukraine and North Korea.

He wrote that Korea will not hold back on giving assistance so that peace in Ukraine can be restored as soon as possible, and in the process, intends to cooperate with NATO member countries, including France.

Yoon noted that "as the confrontation between liberal democracy and authoritarian forces intensifies, a rules-based international order and peace are under threat."

Korea and France have expanded exchanges since establishing comprehensive partnership relations in 2004, he said, and that the time has come to upgrade that cooperative relationship to a "new level."

He stressed a "mutually complementary" effect if the two countries could cooperate in the semiconductor, battery and digital sectors alongside nuclear power, renewable energy, defense and aerospace industries.

Yoon will begin a state visit to Vietnam, Korea's third-largest trading partner, on Thursday, accompanied by a 205-member business delegation.

The largest-ever presidential business delegation since Yoon took office in May 2022 includes Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Kim Dong-kwan and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.

On Friday, Yoon will hold a bilateral summit with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong, who took office in March. The leaders will take part in a welcoming ceremony, discuss ways to deepen bilateral relations upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership upgraded last year and attend a state dinner.

Yoon will also hold meetings with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of Vietnam's National Assembly.

He will also attend a series of business events, meet with Koreans living in Vietnam, participate in cultural events and visit local industrial facilities.

The two countries aim to achieve a trade volume of $150 billion by 2030.

Yoon returns a state visit to Korea last December by then-Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. This marks his first visit to an Asean country since he took office.