Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and his visiting Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko yesterday agreed to deter protectionism and explore mutually beneficial business projects.

During the first-ever visit by a Ukrainian prime minister to South Korea, Tymoshenko exchanged views with Han on improving cooperation in trade, agriculture, construction and energy development.

South Korea and the Ukraine established diplomatic ties in 1992.

The two prime ministers signed agreements yesterday on trade remedy cooperation and collaboration between state-funded export-import banks.

Tymoshenko also paid a courtesy call on President Lee Myung-bak and was scheduled to meet with local businessmen before heading home last night.
In addition to bolstering economic ties, Han and Tymoshenko discussed how to support ethnic Koreans' stay in the Ukraine, the South Korean prime minister's office said.

The Ukraine, located between Russia and Europe, is known for its abundance in natural resources and a large domestic market. Bilateral trade has nearly doubled in the past three years to $2.6 billion last year.

Han told his Ukrainian counterpart that extended bilateral cooperation in nuclear power generation, construction and plant engineering would be mutually beneficial, and requested for her support during the talks yesterday.

Tymoshenko said she hoped her nation could share Korea's know-how in economic development through bolstered economic ties, and agreed to cooperate for stable sojourn of ethnic Koreans in her country.

"Ukraine is Korea's second largest trade partner among the CIS nations after Russia," said a Korean foreign ministry official.

"The first-ever visit by a Ukrainian prime minister to Seoul is expected to contribute greatly towards improving bilateral ties."

Tymoshenko, Ukraine's first female prime minister and one of the key leaders of the Orange Revolution, began her second term in Dec. 2007.

She is the first Ukrainian woman to run for presidential elections early next year.

Tymoshenko, a former businesswoman in the gas industry, reportedly expected to gain three things from her visit to Seoul - joint development of Ukraine petroleum, gas, titanium and uranium; joint construction of seaport infrastructure around the Black Sea; and Ukrainian railway modernization led by Hyundai plus cooperation in the automobile industry.

Ukraine increased natural gas imports from Russia fourfold this month as Tymoshenko pledged to store enough fuel to ensure stable supplies during the winter.

Ukraine, which relies on Russia for about 70 percent of its energy needs, is seeking to increase the amount of gas in its underground storage facilities after a dispute with Russia led to a Jan. 1 supply cut that affected Europe.

By Kim So-hyun

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