South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited a research institute of French Air Liquide SA, the world's biggest supplier of industrial gases, on Saturday to boost cooperation in fuel-cell vehicles as she wrapped up her state visit to France.
The trip to the research institute in Grenoble, a city in southeastern France, underscores the importance South Korea places on liquefaction technology in further spreading the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
She looked around the facility that liquefies helium and hydrogen at the company's institute, then toured a charging facility for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and got inside a taxi powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Currently, five hydrogen fuel cell taxis are on the road for a pilot program as part of project between South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. and Paris-based electric taxi startup STEP.
Last year, Hyundai Motor delivered five ix35 fuel cell vehicles to STEP. Hyundai Motor has become the first carmaker in the world to mass produce the hydrogen-powered cars.
Hyundai's hydrogen-powered car can travel more than 500 kilometers on a single charge, which can be done in three minutes, according to South Korean officials.
The trip came as South Korea's No. 1 carmaker signed a cooperation deal with Air Liquide SA -- which supplies industrial gases and services -- for spreading hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and plans to expand their charging station infrastructure.
"Park's visit to Air Liquide SA is meaningful since it opens the door to facilitating technological cooperation in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and to help spread their use around the world," An Chong-bum, senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, told reporters.
He also described the move as a symbol of bilateral cooperation in the new industry.
A fuel cell car emits only water vapor as it converts stored hydrogen into electricity, which turns the vehicle's motor.
South Korea has been racing to develop hydrogen fuel cell cars as they do not produce greenhouse gases that scientists say are to blame for global warming.
Grenoble is the last stop on Park's swing through Africa and France. The trip took her to Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya.
An said Park was given intravenous fluids due to fatigue caused by her tight schedules such as back-to-back summits and other high-profile meetings with officials.
Park, meanwhile, met with Eric Piolle, mayor of Grenoble, and other officials during her brief visit.
Grenoble has special meaning for Park as she studied in the city for six months after graduating from South Korea' s Sogang University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1974.
Park has received a letter from Jacqueline Courteaud Balanos, whose house was her home during her stay in Grenoble.
Balanos said in a letter dated May 22 that the president's plan to visit Grenoble brought back happy memories of Park's stay at her home, noting that Park, as a student, prepared Korean food for her family at one time and even introduced Korean culture to them.
Balanos also said she is pleased to deepen the friendship between the two countries.
In that year, Park was called back to Seoul to serve as a stand-in first lady after her mother, Yook Young-su, was killed by a pro-North Korean gunman from Japan in a failed assassination attempt on her father, then President Park Chung-hee.
She flew to Grenoble from Paris where she met 30 representatives from the Korean community in France. Park stayed in Grenoble about two hours before leaving for South Korea.
She told the Korean community that South Korea is making efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
On Friday, Park and her French counterpart, Francois Hollande, pledged to take additional steps against North Korea, if necessary, in the latest move to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. The two leaders watched as their representatives signed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between the two nations after their summit.
The MOUs call for, among other things, expanding technological cooperation in such areas as autonomous vehicles, charging stations for electric cars and renewable energy.
France is seeking to expand the percentage of renewable energy to 32 percent of its total energy consumption by 2030 from 14 percent in 2013.
South Korea has signed dozens of initial deals with Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya in such sectors as infrastructure, energy, science, information and communications technology, a move that Seoul says will help South Korean companies make inroads into the African countries.
South Korea and France also signed more than 20 initial deals that call for, among other things, expanding technological cooperation in such areas as autonomous vehicles, charging stations for electric cars and renewable energy.
"I am confident that South Korea's future-oriented partnership with the three African countries and France could serve as an important momentum for an economic takeoff and an increase of exports,"An told reporters.
He also called on the new parliament to take relevant measures to ensure South Korean companies' efforts to make inroads into foreign markets gain traction. (Yonhap)