Lee denounces pro-NK forces as 'behind the times'
SANTIAGO (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that toeing North Korea's lines is "behind the times" and most South Koreans know better than to believe pro-Pyongyang rhetoric.
Lee made the remark during a meeting with South Korean residents in Chile, assuring them not to worry about the so-called "pro-North Korea" forces in their homeland.
Criticism of pro-North Korean sympathizers has risen sharply in South Korea in recent months after some newly elected lawmakers of a minor opposition party displayed strong leanings to Pyongyang and a reluctance to criticize the autocratic regime.
"Hearing news from your homeland, you must have been very much concerned as it was said pro-North Korea forces have emerged among us," Lee said. "Such things are all behind the times, and therefore, I firmly believe that they won't receive support from the people."
Lee arrived in Santiago earlier in the day. Chile is the third leg of a four-nation Latin American trip that already took the South Korean president to Mexico for a G20 summit and Brazil for a U.N. sustainable development meeting. After Chile, Lee will make a state visit to Colombia.
Lee said that South Korea and Chile are geographically far apart, but have drawn closer to each other, referring to rapidly expanding business ties between the two countries since a free trade agreement between them went into effect in 2004.
"Chile is developing into a trade-oriented nation. Chile is the fastest-growing economy in South America," Lee said. "The current president is exercising good leadership."
Lee and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera are scheduled to hold summit talks Friday.
Chile is the first country with which Korea signed a free trade agreement. Since the pact went into effect in 2004, trade volume between the two countries has increased 4.6 fold, to $7.24 billion last year. South Korea's market share in Chile has also doubled to 6.4 percent.
In historical terms, Chile recognized South Korea as a sovereign state in 1949, becoming the first country in Central and South America to do so. South Korea's government was founded in 1948 after the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japan's colonial rule in 1945 and then divided between the North and South.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Chile forged in 1962, and Lee is the first South Korean president to visit Chile in eight years, since late President Roh Moo-hyun made a visit in 2004.