Chicago: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's has visited Chicago to enhance economic ties with the US state of Illinois.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday hosted a dinner for Lee and his wife Kim Yoon-Ok, which was attended by many of Illinois' political and business heavyweights, including Governor Pat Quinn and executives from United Airlines and Caterpillar Inc.

"Chicago is a city of immigrants and all of us are proud of this heritage," said Mayor Emanuel.

"Chicago is home to the third-largest Korean community in the United States. Over the years, we have forged strong business, economic, and personal relationships with our Korean friends. I am confident that Chicagoans of Korean descent will continue to play an important role in our city."

According to a press release from the mayor's office, the dinner came after a bi-lateral meeting between representatives of the City of Chicago and members of the Korean delegation.

South Korea already imports corn and soybeans from Illinois farms, and the southeast Asian country is hoping to forge stronger economic ties to the state, said Chul Huh, the South Korean consul general in Chicago.

"It is wonderful being here in Chicago," said Lee, whose last stop is Chicago before he heads home.

"Korea and Chicago go back many years. In 1893, Korea took part in the World Fair. It was the first time that Korea went overseas officially," Lee said.
   
Lee arrived in the US on Thursday, a day after US Congress ratified a trade pact between the two countries that was the biggest such deal for the US since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1994.

Emanuel praised the efforts of both President Lee and President Obama in bringing the agreement to fruition.

"The agreement was developed with great thought on the part of both nations," Emanuel said.

 Emanuel noted that Korea is the city’s fourth-largest trading partner, and that some 4,000 Koreans study at colleges and universities in the state — many in Chicago — each year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

(Agencies)