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7 November: EU-Korea Relations report

9 November 2018

EU-Korea Relations

On 7 November, together with the Korea chair at the VUB, the EU-Asia centre held a panel discussion on the EU-Korea relationship. The focus of the event was a new publication by the Korea chair ‘EU-ROK relations: Putting the Strategic Partnership to Work.’

Introducing the panel, Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre, said that insufficient attention was paid to Korea, and India and Japan, the EU’s other strategic partners in Asia. The establishment of the Korea chair at the VUB was thus very much to be welcomed. Today’s event marked the publication of a new report on how to deepen the partnership. It was also timely given the recent summit during ASEM and the growing uncertainty about developments in East Asia.

Professor Ramon Pacheco Pardo said that EU Korea relations were highly developed with three major agreements and a plethora of dialogues. The FTA had seen trade surge 47% in the past five years but there were some irritants concerning labour rights, beef exports and market access. Security cooperation was developing fast especially in cyber and WMD. Mogherini’s meetings with her ROK counterpart covered DPRK but also many other issues.

Turning to the nine proposals in the report, Professor Pardo said that annual summits would give greater visibility to the partnership (there had only been five summits since 2010). The proposal for a separate EP delegation for the ROK as opposed to the current situation of a delegation for the Korean peninsula would put the ROK on the same level as other partners. (One former EP official doubted if it would work for internal bureaucratic reasons). The FTA renegotiations should cover services and e-commerce. WMD cooperation was self-explanatory as both parties shared regulatory frameworks. The same held for cyber security as the ROK had experience of DPRK practices. Working together on peacekeeping should also bring added value as would cooperation on sustainable development at home (cities) and abroad. And finally both should work together on connectivity.

Ambassador Kim welcomed the report drawing attention to the success of the FTA and growing cooperation on anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. There were constant dialogues (almost one a week) and new ones on ICT, transport and SMEs had been agreed. Further agreements had been signed at the recent summit between Presidents Tusk and Juncker with President Moon. These covered illegal fishing, aviation and data protection. It had proved difficult to reach agreement on a summit statement as the principals had been travelling so much before the summit.

Reinhold Brender (EEAS) said that one had to view the relationship within the broader context of the EU’s Global Strategy and the slow but steady development of CFSP. This year the two sides were celebrating 55 years of diplomatic relations. He could agree with the nine points in the report and would add ageing societies and robotics. There also needed to be more emphasis on people to people exchanges.

Mascha Peters (EU-Asia Centre) said that the two parties were indeed like-minded and supported the Paris climate change agreements and the Iran nuclear deal. She considered there could be much greater cooperation on renewable energy and on employment issues. In the longer term a focus on renewables would boost jobs. Currently there was much frustration among the youth in the ROK about employment prospects. The ROK was also way behind the EU in ratifying international labour agreements. 

In the discussion there were questions about EU preparations for the opening up in the DPRK; cooperation on WTO reform, the impact of Trump, connectivity and SMEs.