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Bush to visit South Korea for economic forum: organisers

world Updated: Jul 22, 2009 10:14 IST

Former US President George W Bush will visit South Korea next week to speak at a forum on the global economic crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Bush will be a special guest at the meeting hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries in the southern island of Jeju from July 29 to August 1, the federation said in a statement.

"President Bush will deliver a speech focusing on the importance of ratifying a US-South Korea bilateral trade agreement, ways to respond to trade protectionism and threats from North Korea," it said.

The former leader will speak on August 1. Other details of his trip were not disclosed.

Bush has made few public appearances since stepping down in January. He last visited South Korea in August 2008 for a summit with President Lee Myung-Bak.

He was a strong supporter of the sweeping trade pact forged with Lee's prodecessor Roh Moo-Hyun. It was signed in 2007 but awaits ratification by the legislatures of both countries, and some US lawmakers are seeking amendments.

President Barack Obama said last month he was "committed" to moving ahead on the pact but declined to set a timeframe, pointing to disputes over US exports of beef and cars.

Bush in 2002 branded North Korea part of an "Axis of Evil". But during his second term he supported six-nation negotiations designed to shut down the communist state's nuclear programmes and removed it from a terrorism blacklist.

The North has hardened its stance under the Obama administration, withdrawing from six-party talks, carrying out a second nuclear test and launching missiles in protest at what it sees as continuing US hostility.

The forum will also feature South Korean Knowledge Economy Minister Lee Youn-Ho, Financial Services Commission chairman Chin Dong-Soo and representatives of top business groups such as Samsung, Hyundai and SK.