Posted : 2013-11-04 18:31
Updated : 2013-11-04 18:31

Korea, France agree to ease visa rules

President Park Geun-hye, right, shakes hands with French President Francois Hollande ahead of their summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Monday. / Yonhap

By Kim Tae-gyu

PARIS ― President Park Geun-hye attended a summit with her French counterpart Francois Hollande, Monday, and agreed to cooperate in the development of the pharmaceutical sector and issuance of working visas.

To increase exchanges of skilled workers between the two countries, they agreed to reduce the time needed to get visas by the end of next year, according to Park's senior economic aide, Cho Won-dong.

"Currently, visa issuance for French jobseekers takes about three months in Korea. Things are similar for Koreans in France. The two leaders decided to cut the period to a month by next year," Cho said.

"Such efforts will start from now on so that companies of the two nations will be able to step up collaboration."

On the sidelines of the summit, Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare signed a pair of agreements with France pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi-Aventis and the state-run LFB.

"In 2009, Sanofi-Aventis invested some 70 billion won in Korea and is set to expand the amount. Toward that end, it signed a letter of intent earlier this year and a memorandum of understanding will be inked soon," Cho said.

"In addition, LFB will sign a contract of investing $15 million in Korea."

Cho added that the two leaders talked about the so-called "creative economy," which is President Park's major economic agenda. This refers to finding new growth engines through convergence between IT industries and other conventional sectors such as broadcasting.

Experts point out that Park and Hollande have much in common ― they were elected as the state leaders last year against strong rivals by each gaining 51.6 percent of the vote.

The two also put economic recovery as one of their top goals in the face of the global downturn; and are seeking deregulation despite their difference in political philosophy.

France's national output remained at a standstill last year compared to 2011. The annual growth rate is also expected to be just 0.1 percent this year. Its unemployment rate is also stuck in the double-digits ― it was a 16-year-high of 10.9 percent during the second quarter of this year.

Things are somewhat better for Korea but Asia's No. 4 economy is not doing so well, either.

According to the World Factbook issued by the Central Intelligence Agency, the country's year-on-year economic growth rate was 6.3 percent in 2010 to be ranked at the 57th place among 189 countries surveyed.

The rate dipped to 3.6 percent in 2011 and 2 percent last year so that the ranking plunged to the 102nd and then 117th. This year, Seoul is aiming for 3 percent.

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