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Emerging Eastern Ties: V4 Cooperation with the Republic of Korea by Enikő Bagoly

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Emerging Eastern Ties: V4 Cooperation with the Republic of Korea

Summit of the Prime Ministers of the V4 and the Republic of Korea, 3 December 2015.

South Korea (ROK) is the tenth largest economy overall,[i] the fourth largest economy in Asia,[ii] the world’s seventh largest exporter and ninth largest importer.[iii] The economic growth of the country represents an impressive foreign investment success story, as being the first recipient of OECD development funds and later on becoming a donor of the funds.[iv] The country is highly integrated into international organizations (UN, OECD, G20, ASEAN, WTO member) and has free trade agreement simultaneously with China, the US and the EU, and besides—from cultural influence point of view— Korea is ranked as the seventh most influential country in the world. [v]

The EU-ROK trade relations have significantly improved since the conclusion of the EU-Republic of Korea Trade Agreement[vi] in 2010, eliminating duties for industrial and agricultural goods. After ten years, the EU represents the biggest foreign investor in the ROK with a share of 37 per cent of the country’s total FDI. Moreover, investments from the ROK to the EU grew 151 per cent in the past decade.[vii] In 2020, South Korea was the ninth largest partner for EU exports of goods (2.3 per cent) and the eighth largest partner for EU imports of goods (2.6 per cent).[viii] Among the EU members, the V4 has 29 per cent share (12,805 million €) of overall import of goods from the ROK and 4 per cent share (1,778 million €) of overall EU export to the ROK. Regarding the FDI flow, Hungary is the biggest investor among the V4 in the South-Korean market (with share of 8 per cent), besides, the ROK has 10 per cent share of FDI in Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia.[i]

V4-ROK Relations

Official commitment to deepen and develop relations between the V4 and Korea was formally established in 2015 by issuing a joint statement after the first summit of the Group’s Prime Ministers and the President of the Republic of Korea.[i] Designated areas of cooperation varies from political to economic and cultural aspects, including ‘establishing a partnership for building the innovative and creative economy through cooperation in the fields of R&D, science, technology and innovation’, strengthening energy cooperation,  exploring opportunities for transport and infrastructure cooperation, to deepen cultural dialogue and mutual understanding by encouraging their cooperation in the field of tourism, mobility programs for researchers and exchanges programmes for students.

2021/22 Hungarian Presidency Programme

In 2021, after a presidential-level joint meeting, the V4 re-declared its intention to strengthen economic relations with South Korea

[ii] The 2021/22 Hungarian Presidency Programme also correlates to the emerging Korean-European dynamics of recent years, declaring the Republic of Korea as ‘a major ally for the Visegrad countries on the political, economic and cultural levels.’[iii] the positive approach of the Hungarian Presidency contributes ‘to strengthen the V4+Korea partnership through the highest-level political dialogue and the continuation of successful scientific, innovation and foreign policy projects (e.g., support of the Eastern Partnership through the Visegrad Fund) and emphasizes the importance of developing economic relations in the post-COVID period. In the spotlight of the V4+ format-ROK cooperation is the support of ongoing scientific and technological cooperation,[iv] the strengthening of the diplomatic and political relations by launching meetings for foreign ministers and political directors. Besides, the renewed V4+Korea Knowledge Sharing Programme (2021-2022) is strongly supporting the ‘objective of strengthening the economies of its participants through sharing knowledge in the field of science, technology and innovation’[v]

V4+ROK Cooperation in the Post-pandemic Era

Within the framework of the V4+ format, the cooperation with the Republic of Korea contributes to the fight against COVID-19 in the Eastern Partnership region, in this case in the Ukraine and Georgia.[vi] The povided humanitarian assistance in V4 East Solidarity Program aims to curb the pandemic and its consequences both in social and economic fields. The programme launched in 2020 amounted to 250,000 euros, which has reached more than 430,000 euros with the Korean support.  Overall support coming from the ROK’s contribution (750,000 euros) makes the country the second largest external donor of the Visegrad Found projects supporting the Easter Partnership countries and the Western Balkans.[vii]


Enikő Bagoly, Danube Institute research fellow


[i] Joint Statement on the Occasion of the First Summit of Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group and the President of the Republic of Korea. 03.12.2015. https://www.visegradgroup.eu/documents/official-statements/joint-statement-on-the (04.08.2021)

[ii] Official webpage PM Hungary: Visegrád Countries and South Korea to Deepen Relations. 04.12.2021., https://miniszterelnok.hu/visegrad-countries-and-south-korea-to-deepen-relations/ (02.08.2021)

[iii] ‘Recharging Europe. Programme of the Hungarian Presidency 2021/22.’ https://v4.mfa.gov.hu/asset/view/139043/Programme_of_the_HU_V4_Presidency_2021-22.pdf p. 37 (2021.08.01)

[iv] ‘Recharging Europe. Programme of the Hungarian Presidency 2021/22.’ https://v4.mfa.gov.hu/asset/view/139043/Programme_of_the_HU_V4_Presidency_2021-22.pdf p. 25 (2021.08.01)2021.08.01)

[v] ‘Recharging Europe. Programme of the Hungarian Presidency 2021/22.’ https://v4.mfa.gov.hu/asset/view/139043/Programme_of_the_HU_V4_Presidency_2021-22.pdf p. 37 (2021.08.01)

[vi] Visegrad Fund: ‘V4 + Korea Jointly Assist Fight Against the Pandemic in Georgia and Ukraine.’ 01.02.2021., https://www.visegradfund.org/news/v4_korea_against_pandemic/ (07.08.2021)



[i] Projected GDP per capita ranking. https://statisticstimes.com/economy/projected-world-gdp-capita-ranking.php (04.08.2021)

[ii] Trading Economics: ‘South Korea GDP Annual Growth Rate.’ https://tradingeconomics.com/south-korea/gdp-growth-annual(05.08.2021)

[iii] Santander: ‘South Korean foreign trade in figures.’ https://santandertrade.com/en/portal/analyse-markets/south-korea/foreign-trade-in-figures?url_de_la_page=%2Fen%2Fportal%2Fanalyse-markets%2Fsouth-korea%2Fforeign-trade-in-figures&&actualiser_id_banque=oui&id_banque=0&memoriser_choix=memoriser (01.08.2021)

[iv] US News: ‘Best countries: South Korea.’ https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/south-korea (27.07.2021.)

[v] US News: ‘Cultural influence.’ https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/influence-rankings (04.08.2021)

[vi] Official Journal of the European Union: ‘Council Decision of 16 September 2010 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, and provisional application of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part.’ 14.05.2021. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=OJ%3AL%3A2011%3A127%3ATOC (29.07.2021)

[vii] European Commission: ‘EU-Republic of Korea trade grows twice as fast under trade agreement.’ 01.07.2021. https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=2285 (28.07.2021)

[viii] Eurostat: ‘South Korea-EU – international trade in goods statistics.’ https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=South_Korea-EU_-_international_trade_in_goods_statistics&oldid=524951 (02.08.2021)

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