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South Korean and Finnish presidents discuss Pyongyang, business

President Moon Jae-in visits startup firms at Aalto University in between talks with Finnish leaders this week.

Etelä-Korean presidentti Moon Jae-in (toinen vasemmalta) vierellään puolisonsa sekä presidentti Sauli Niinistö ja puolisonsa Jenni Haukio katselevat vastaanottojuhlallisuuksia maanantaiaamuna 10. kesäkuuta 2019.
President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook at a welcoming ceremony alongside Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio on 10 June. Image: Karoliina Simoinen / Yle

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in formally began a state visit to Finland on Monday morning, a day after arriving in Helsinki. He was welcomed by his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö at the Presidential Palace in central Helsinki. Both men were accompanied by their spouses.

After holding talks, the two heads of state held a joint press conference. Besides bilateral issues, the two said they had discussed North Korea. Moon expressed optimism about Pyongyang's dialogue with the United States, and Niinistö offered to help further as needed. Some low-profile talks between the two sides have been held in Finland, but no more are planned.

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Etelä-Korean tasavallan presidentti Moon Jae-in ja Sauli Niinistö Presidentinlinnassa.
The presidents discussed an array of bilateral and international issues. Image: Karoliina Simoinen / Yle

The presidents also agreed to open direct flights between Helsinki and Busan, a city of 3.5 million that has so far not had a direct air link with Europe.

Startup culture and corporate forum

Moon's schedule for Monday also included a meeting with Speaker of Parliament and former prime minister Matti Vanhanen and a visit to Aalto University in Espoo to find out about Finnish startup culture, which South Korea reportedly wants to emulate. The scheduled activities of the day end with a state banquet at the palace.

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Etelä-Korean tasavallan presidentti Moon Jae-in saapui puolisonsa kanssa maanantaiaamuna Suomeen.. Uusi elinkeinoministeri Katri Kulmuni otti heidät vastaan.
President Moon Jae-in and his wife were welcomed at Helsinki Airport on Sunday by the new Minister of Economic Affairs, Katri Kulmuni. Image: Yonhap / EPA

On Tuesday, Moon is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Antti Rinne and address a corporate forum along with Niinistö.

Police have issued warnings for traffic disruptions in central and western Helsinki as some streets are closed off for official motorcades.

Niinistö visited Seoul in 2012 to take part in an international Nuclear Security Summit.

The last visit to Finland by a Korean president was in 2006, when Tarja Halonen hosted Roh Moo-hyun.

Moon, who took office two years ago, leaves Finland on Wednesday, continuing on to Sweden and Norway.

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