South Korea President Lee Myung-bak on Monday sought Indian government’s “cooperation” in building the USD 12 billion (about Rs 54,000 crore) steel plant in Orissa, in the face of people’s agitation over land acquisition for the project.

The issue came up for discussions between Mr. Lee and visiting Indian President Pratibha Patil.

“President Lee hoped that the Korean companies expand their participation in construction of infrastructure such as road, power and plant, and called for cooperation of the Indian side in order to realize early POSCO project in Orissa State,” a statement from Cheong Wa Dae News, President’s office, said.

“Both leaders agreed to cooperate in order to conclude discussion on the on-going aviation agreement, an agreement on maritime transport and double tax avoidance agreement in the direction of mutual benefits,” it said.

The two leaders also discussed ways to further expand bilateral cooperation besides touching regional and international issues.

“Leaders of the two nations evaluated that substantial cooperation between the two countries in diplomacy, security, economy, trade, society and culture has greatly progressed since the bilateral relations was upgraded to ‘strategic partnership’ in January, 2010, and agreed to expand cooperation particularly in politics, security and the defence industry,” the statement said.

Both leaders felt the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries has contributed to expansion of trade, investment and exchange of human resources.

“In addition, the two leaders also agreed to closely cooperate for easing import restrictions,” it said.

Major agreements like nuclear cooperation, media exchange and social security for people employed in both the countries were also signed on the occasion.

“Both leaders welcomed establishment of legal foundation of nuclear energy cooperation by signing an ‘agreement on nuclear energy cooperation’, and President Lee called for cooperation of the Indian government with Korea for tie-ups in nuclear plant projects.

In addition, two leaders expected the ‘social security agreement’ and ‘visa facilitation agreement’ to practically contribute to exchange of human resources between the two nations besides revitalising investments, the statement said.