MANILA- South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed his people's love for the Philippines to President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday as the two leaders meet ahead of a summit with Southeast Asian leaders.
"The Korean people love the Philippines. Koreans are the number one visitors to the Philippines," Moon told Duterte as he called for stronger ties between Manila and Seoul.
South Korea remained the Philippines' top tourism market in 2018 with over 1.6 million arrivals.
Last week, South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man earlier said he promised President Duterte that he would increase this number to 2 million during his term as envoy.
Moon also thanked Duterte for showing "great affection to Korea."
"Based on our history of friendship and trust, the time is right for our countries to think about elevating our relations to a strategic partnership," Moon said.
"The elevation of our relations will pave the way for our countries to engage in greater cooperation that will lead us to common prosperity," he added.
Duterte, for his part, said Filipinos and Koreans "share a unique affinity" and thanked Seoul for its $100,000 donation to Mindanao earthquake victims.
"Solidarity and mutual aid had been the hallmark of our ties," Duterte said.
"I assure you that the Philippines will continue to find common cause and purpose with the Republic of Korea towards enhancing our bilateral engagement and promoting peace and stability in your region," he added.