SEOUL, May 27 (UPI) -- The South Korean government pressed on Monday to win more exposure in the energy- and resource-rich Arab and African nations by hosting two key visitors.
The visitors were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Both were in Seoul for a one-day international conference ahead of next month's official inauguration of the Korea-Arab Society, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea has been seeking to expand its ties with Middle Eastern and African nations, and its efforts, along with those of other Asian countries, have intensified as their demand for energy grows with their growing economies.
South Korea is the world's 13th-largest economy and the fifth-largest oil importer, averaging 900 million barrels annually, the report said.
In his meeting with the Sudanese leader, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for strengthening cooperation in energy development and construction, Yonhap reported.
A statement said, "Lee noted Sudan's economic growth potential, citing its abundant energy and mineral reserves."
Sudan is Africa's fifth-largest oil producer with a daily output of 500,000 barrels. Yonhap reported Sudan's real growth rate averaged 7 percent over the past decade partly because of Chinese and other Asian investments.
Bashir was quoted as saying South Korea could address its energy woes by expanding cooperation with his North African country.
Bashir's government is under intense international pressure over the civil conflict in the Darfur region, which so far has claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced at least 2.5 million people.
Yonhap reported South Korea is considering sending troops to Darfur to help the United Nations bring peace there.
In his meeting with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, the South Korean leader noted that country's importance as a gateway to East Africa. Lee asked for Guelleh's support in allowing Korean companies to participate in the country's various infrastructure projects.
Some 100 officials and representatives from 22 countries participated in the conference.
Addressing them, South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said energy and other economic projects ranked high on the agenda.
"Among others, we hope to contribute to the development of each other in the economic sector. We seek active cooperation in energy resources," he said.
One South Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying, "The need for energy cooperation is dire amid rising oil prices."