President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for 35 minutes from 5:00 p.m. today. Their telephone conversation was arranged at the request of the Turkish President.
President Moon greeted his Turkish counterpart by saying that he was pleased to speak with him by phone again after their conversation in March. President Moon went on to say, “I am grateful to you for sending a video message for the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. On the occasion of that anniversary, I hold our friendship with Turkey in special regard as your country sent the fourth largest number of troops during the Korean War.”
Turkey dispatched 21,212 soldiers, becoming the country that sent the fourth highest number of troops to fight in the Korean War, following the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Among them, 2,365 Turks were killed or injured during the War.
President Moon continued, “During our telephone conversation in March, I explained the importance of indispensable exchanges among businesspeople and asked you to consider the issue. I am grateful to the Turkish Government for making exceptions to allow Korean businesspeople to enter despite border control measures.”
The Turkish Government suspended all international flights and restricted the entry of foreign nationals beginning March 17. However, it allowed entry to 143 Korean workers from Hyundai Motor Company and its suppliers on April 30, and on May 21 and June 5, it again permitted special entry to 16 Korean employees linked to construction of the Çanakkale 1915 Bridge.
President Erdoğan congratulated President Moon on Korea’s success in holding its general election despite the COVID-19 outbreak as well as on the desired outcome. The President said that he thinks that the success of President Moon and his ruling party reflects the public’s support for their having responded to COVID-19 in an exemplary manner. He noted that the whole world pays attention to Korea-led responses to COVID-19 and President Moon’s leadership.
President Erdoğan said that, like Korea, Turkey is successfully responding to COVID-19, adding that, in particular, it is playing a leading role together with Korea in global healthcare cooperation. For instance, it has been providing epidemic prevention supplies to 131 countries around the world.
The President then explained that Turkey is also gradually taking steps to resume the country’s normal economic activities and daily routines. On June 11, Turkey lifted entry restrictions imposed on foreign nationals, including Koreans, and Turkish Airlines’ direct flights between Incheon and Istanbul are scheduled to resume June 24.
President Moon noted, “I know that the Turkish Government took strong measures, such as border closures and curfews, immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19 there. Thanks to the success of its infectious disease prevention and control, Turkey has recently taken steps to gradually resume economic activities, which I believe was a hard decision for the President to make.”
President Erdoğan said close economic cooperation between the two countries is necessary to respond to COVID-19 and prepare for the post-COVID-19 era. The President expressed his hope that Korea’s investment in Turkey will increase further and that bilateral economic cooperation will expand, including through the establishment of a trade settlement system that utilizes the two countries’ currencies.
President Erdoğan also asked President Moon to give consideration to both countries working closely together in the defense industry and shipbuilding.
In reply, President Moon pointed out that the Korea-Turkey FTA signed in 2013 has contributed to promoting bilateral trade and investment. He expressed the hope that the Korea-Turkey joint economic committee would meet as soon as possible to discuss issues of mutual interest, strengthening bilateral economic cooperation further.
President Erdoğan said he had heard the news about North Korea’s demolition of the two Koreas’ joint liaison office. The President expressed his unwavering support by repeating twice that Turkey backs the South Korean Government and President Moon’s Korean Peninsula peace process.
Next, President Erdoğan asked President Moon to visit Turkey after the COVID-19 outbreak is brought under control, saying that it is a very important invitation for his country.
President Erdoğan said he would take President Moon by the hand and escort him to the Çanakkale 1915 Bridge when he visits Turkey. The Turkish President went on to say that the bridge will go down in history as a milestone of Korean-Turkish cooperation when completed.
The Çanakkale 1915 Bridge will connect the European and Asian portions of Turkey and be the world’s longest suspension bridge upon its estimated completion in 2021. It is being built by a consortium that includes Korean (SK E&C, Daerim Industrial) and Turkish companies.
President Moon replied, “I am grateful to Turkey for providing consistent support for our Government’s Korean Peninsula peace process. I also am eager to visit the construction site of the Çanakkale 1915 Bridge. I’m looking forward to meeting you again.”