South Korea and the Philippines have purportedly signed US$4.9 billion of deals in trade and investment pledges during President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit.
There were deals with Hyundai, which said it would review plans to build a vehicle-making plant, his team announced.
The investment pledges could create 50,000 jobs, trade minister Ramon Lopez said from Seoul. The 73-year-old president told a business forum that he hoped the pledges would become “actual investments”.
“Your businesses are assured of protection and potential for profits,” Duterte said.
Seoul pledged as much as US$1 billion in official development assistance for infrastructural projects.
Bilateral ties were reaching a “new maturity”, Duterte said, praising the “meaningful and productive” visit to Seoul.
“Indeed, the Republic of Korea is a true friend of the Philippines. And President Moon (Jae-in) an even closer ally. Our friendship is reaching a new maturity at even closer as deep and abiding friends,” Duterte said when he landed back in Manila.
Duterte praised peace efforts with North Korea and Moon’s “full support” for the eventual denuclearisation of the peninsula.
“President Moon and I both reaffirmed the need to work closer together to address traditional and emerging threats, again terrorism, transnational crimes and piracy at sea,” he told the media in Manila.
“To do this, we will count on South Korea as a steady partner in modernising our key assets in defence, security and law enforcement.”
The visit was not without controversy with Duterte forced to defend his kiss on the lips of a married Filipino expat in South Korea, saying he will resign if enough women are offended and sign a petition.
The official Philippine News Agency identified the woman as Bea Kim and posted a video of her on Facebook saying: “There wasn’t malice in it. For me, for him, it didn’t mean anything.”
Duterte called Sunday’s snog “pure showbiz” to entertain the Filipino expatriates but women called it a “perverted way” of taunting female critics of his repeated misogynistic comments.
“If there are enough women to … Well I think if all women here would sign a petition for me to resign, I will resign,” Duterte said on his return.
He asked a woman from the audience of Filipinos to kiss him in exchange for a book he was offering. The woman appeared excited to meet the president who has made public jokes about subjects like gang rape.
Duterte, who has iconic status among Filipino expats, said he often kissed women while Davao mayor for 22 years.
“During the campaign in my mayorship days, I kiss every woman there, lips to lips. The problem is you don’t know me.”
Women’s groups launched a #BabaeAko (I am a woman) campaign to oppose the kissing president.
Legal representative Salvador Panelo said the kiss showed Duterte’s caring, paternal character and the recipient in Seoul enjoyed the exchange.
“She did it willingly and excitedly, she was tickled pink,” he told the media.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s kiss controversy. Picture credit: YouTube