(ATTTN: UPDATES headline, lead, throughout; ADDS photo)
SEOUL/Hanoi, Sept. 17 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha paid a courtesy call on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Thursday as she started a two-day visit to Hanoi aimed at promoting cooperation in coronavirus responses and regional issues.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has strained exchanges among countries while they focused on curbing the spread of the virus, but I appreciate that the ties between South Korea and Vietnam, though there were small difficulties, are returning to normal," Kang said during her meeting with the prime minister.
Phuc expressed hopes that the two countries will discuss a wide array of bilateral issues during Kang's trip, pointing out that she is the first foreign minister to visit Vietnam since the global pandemic.
Kang arrived in the Southeast Asian country earlier in the day. She is scheduled to meet her counterpart, Pham Binh Minh, on Friday for talks expected to focus on creating an expedited entry system for essential travelers from South Korea.
"There still remain a lot of parts that should be coordinated," she told reporters ahead of her departure from Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, when asked about the prospect of a special entry system. "Agreement has not been reached yet about anti-virus measures we are thinking of and they believe are necessary."
Kang also said that she will use the trip to work out ways to revitalize people-to-people exchanges with Hanoi, a key partner for Seoul's New Southern Policy aimed at deepening economic and other ties with Southeast Asian countries.
The minister's visit to Hanoi is her second trip abroad since the global spread of COVID-19 put a curb on diplomatic travels. She visited Germany early last month in the first such trip since the pandemic.