JAKARTA, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Maria de Vasconcelos has expressed his thanks to South Korea for its efforts to help the tiny Southeast Asian country gain independence, a South Korean official said Tuesday.
Vasconcelhos, popularly known by his nom-de-guerre Taur Matan Ruak, met with South Korean Ambassador to East Timor Lee Chin-bum and a group of volunteers, who will teach the Korean language to East Timorese youths, at his office in the capital, Dili, on Monday.
During the meeting, the prime minister was quoted as saying that East Timor is thankful South Korea dispatched soldiers to provide support to the country's bid to gain political independence.
South Korea dispatched hundreds of soldiers, named the Sangnoksu Unit, to East Timor on a peacekeeping mission in October 1999.
Vasconcelhos also thanked South Korea for sending the 16-member group, affiliated with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), to help East Timor win economic independence, as this year marks the 20th anniversary of the military unit's dispatch.
The group, from the state aid agency KOICA, is set to teach the Korean language to local students who wish to work in South Korea at vocational schools or training centers.
The East Timorese government has teamed up with the South Korean Embassy to launch a task force aimed at helping young East Timorese people land jobs in South Korea.
East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, gained independence in May 2002 after more than 24 years under Indonesian occupation and two-and-a-half years under U.N. transitional administration.