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South Korea, Spain champion democracy during Moon Jae-in's state visit

Spain's King Felipe VI (L) and South Korea's President Moon Jae-In (R) review the honor guard during an official reception ceremony at Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday. Photo by Ballesteros/EPA-EFE
Spain's King Felipe VI (L) and South Korea's President Moon Jae-In (R) review the honor guard during an official reception ceremony at Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday. Photo by Ballesteros/EPA-EFE

June 16 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Spain's top officials and became the first Korean leader to visit Spanish Parliament to deliver a speech during a state visit to deepen ties between countries that uphold "freedom, democracy, human rights."

The mayor of Madrid also presented the president with a "golden key" to Spain.

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Moon said Wednesday at Spain's Cortes Generales that the two countries embody the "spirit and practice of democracy," South Korea's CBS No Cut News reported.

"The peoples of both countries overcame civil war and authoritarianism in the 20th century and achieved democratization in less than half a century, and are recognized as fully democratic countries in the world," Moon said.

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Moon began his state visit Tuesday, and is the first world leader to visit the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The South Korean leader and first lady Kim Jung-sook were welcomed by Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia at Royal Palace in Madrid on his first day, when they were greeted with horses, a gun salute and military honor guards.

Moon presented the Grand Order of Mugunghwa to the king and his wife, and the king awarded Moon with Spain's Order of Civil Merit. The king thanked Moon for South Korean COVID-19 testing kits, Dong-A Ilbo reported Wednesday.

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At Madrid's City Hall, Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida presented Moon with a "Golden Key," a traditional gift from the city to foreign dignitaries visiting Spain.

"This Golden Key is presented to the president on behalf of the residents of Madrid as proof of our friendship with gratitude toward the Korean people," the mayor said.

Moon said the key could bring "great luck" to the Korean Peninsula.

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"With this key, I will open the door to overcoming the coronavirus pandemic."

South Korea and Spain said in a joint statement issued Wednesday that the two sides "reaffirm commitment to the complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula."

North Korea suspended dialogue with the South after 2019.

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