Focusing on closer economic ties with India during the 31st year of diplomatic relations with New Delhi, South Korea has set a target of $4 billion of bilateral trade this year and is mulling augmenting overseas development assistance to the country.
"Since establishment of diplomatic ties in 1973, the relations between the two countries have steadily been strengthened in all fields. We expect the bilateral trade volume to reach $4 billion from the present $2.6 billion this year," Korean Ambassador Kwon Soon Tae said in New Delhi.
"The focus now is primarily on better economic relations. And we want the Government of India to create more investor-friendly climate in the country to attract more Korean companies here," the envoy said.
He said red tape, corruption and poor infrastructure were the main bottlenecks faced by Korean companies, adding most investors preferred China and Vietnam over India as they offered a speedy redressal of complaints and, therefore, appeared a better place for industrial investment.
Kwon said high tariff rates, labour-related problems, bad roads, ports and shortage of power were other reasons keeping the Korean investors away.
However, Kwon said the Korean peninsula had a traditionally good relationship with India. The land of Buddha held a special place in the hearts of Korean people; about 25 per cent of the country's population were followers of Buddhism, who wished to visit India for religious pilgrimage, Kwon added.
Seoul was also considering increasing overseas development assistance to India, the ambassador said, adding the two countries were aiming at achieving $10 billion bilateral trade by the year 2010.
On the issue of supporting India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, the envoy said his country was still exploring the best ways to reform the United Nations system.
India, due to its size and status in the comity of nations, deserved to be in the Security Council, whenever the world body was expanded, he said.
"The mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of our two countries play very important roles in enhancing bilateral relations. The Korean government is determined to make every effort to promote exchanges in various areas such as academics, sports, youth and culture so that a more people-to-people contact could be realized," Kwon added.