On the Road With Warren Buffett in South Korea

The Japanese disaster may speed improvement in relations between South Korea and Japan, the mayor of South Korea's third largest city told Warren Buffett today.

Photo: CNBC

In a breakfast meeting with the Oracle of Omaha, Bumil Kim, the mayor of Daegu, said that the South Korean people had donated $30 to $40 million through the nation's broadcasters to send to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

He also said that long-standing animosities had been set aside in the wake of the crisis. For over 60 years, Mayor Kim explained, Korean women enslaved by the Japanese during World War II have been protesting every Friday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. "We fought like cats and dogs in the past," said Mayor Kim.

But this past Friday, when the women gathered in front of the Japanese embassy, instead of protesting they prayed for the victims in Japan.

The mayor also told Warren Buffett that he believed North Korea's Kim Jong Il was watching events in the events in the Middle East very closely.

The North Korean leader is "very rich. He is the richest man in the world, besides you," Mayor Bumil Kim told Buffett.

Mayor Kim said that was why Kim Jong Il has reason to fear change, and why he believes the North Korean leader was taking heed of leaders toppled in the Middle East in the last two months.

According to Forbes magazine, Buffett is the third richest man in the world. Forbes lists Carlos Slim as the richest, followed by Bill Gates.

Mayor Kim said tensions between North and South Korea had eased somewhat over the last couple of months, and that he is very "optimistic" and hopeful that progress will be made in talks between the two nations later this year.


Daegu is the third largest city in South Korea. It is home to TaeguTec, a tool-making facility owned by Israeli manufacturing company Iscar. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway purchased an 80% stake in Iscar in 2006. This is Buffett's second visit to the TaeguTec operations here in Daegu.

Buffett's trip to South Korea is the beginning of a week-long journey to Asia, with stops in Seoul, followed by Bangalore and New Delhi in India.

In Seoul, he'll meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Buffett also will be talking up his personal insurance business in India, for which Berkshire just received approval to start up from Indian regulators. And during the trip, he will meet up with Bill and Melinda Gates in New Delhi to discuss their giving pledge with wealthy Indians.

CNBC will be along for the ride and you can catch regular updates starting Monday morning at 6 am Eastern on Squawk Box.