INDIA – REPUBLIC OF KOREA BILATERAL RELATIONS
1. India-Republic of Korea (RoK) relations has made great strides in recent years and has become truly multidimensional, spurred by a significant convergence of interests, mutual goodwill and high-level exchanges. Bilateral consular relations were established in 1962 and were upgraded to Ambassador-level on 10 December, 1973. In course of time, RoK's open market policies found resonance with India's economic liberalization, 'Look East Policy' and later with “Act East Policy”.
India-Korea kinship and Buddhist Connection
2. According to "SamgukYusa" or "The Heritage History of the Three Kingdoms" written in the 13th century, a Princess from Ayodhya came to Korea, married King Kim-Suro of the Gaya Confederacy, Korea and became Queen Hur(Heo) Hwang-ok in the year 48 AD. Many Koreans trace their ancestry to this lineage. Buddhism provides another linkages in the early times where many monks had traveled between the two countries. However, there is another school of thought which believed Buddhism had arrived in Korea much earlier in 1st century AD, directly from India through maritime route, through the brothers of Queen Heo. Some Korean monks have also supported this view point. This has also been brought out in a recently released book authored by Monk Domyeong, Chief Monk of Gimhae YeoYeo Jung Sa temple, titled 'Gaya Buddhism That Opened Up The Sea Route’ in 2022 and a Docu-movie on the similar theme was released by KNN Media. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore composed a short but evocative poem titled– 'Lamp of the East' - in 1929 about Korea's glorious past and its promising bright future, which is fondly remembered by the Koreans and finds mentioned in Korean school textbooks.
India’s Role in Korean War
3. India played an important and positive role in the Korean affairs after Korea's independence in 1945. Mr. K P S Menon of India was the Chairman of the 9-member UN Commission set up in 1947 to hold elections in Korea. India sent an Army medical unit -the 60th Parachute Field Ambulance comprising of 627 medical personnel, commanded by Lt. Col. A.G. Rangaraj during the Korean War as part of the UN Command, and treated about 220,000 patients. During the Korean War (1950-53), both the warring sides accepted a resolution sponsored by India, and the ceasefire was declared on 27 July 1953. Lt. General K.S. Thimayya of India, served as the Chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission [NNRC] after the armistice and contributed to resolving the humanitarian issues arising out of the War, which won appreciation from all quarters. India dispatched one Brigade Group designated as Custodian Forces -India (CFI) comprising 5230 personnel to Korea, under Major General SSP Thorat which was instrumental in resolving the Prisoners of War issue. Recently, PM Narendra Modi gave a video message during an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War in 2020. An exhibition to commemorate India’s contribution to Korean War in March 3, 2022 was organised which was attended by ROK Minister of Patriots and Veteran Affairs. A commemorative book was also released on the occasion.
4. PM Narasimha Rao visited ROK in 1993, followed by a return visit by ROK President Kim Young-sam in 1996. President Roh Moo-hyun visited India in 2004 which was reciprocated by the State Visit of President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to ROK in February 2006, heralding a new phase in India-RoK relations. It led to the launch of a Joint Task Force to conclude a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which was operationalized on 1st January 2010. President Lee Myung-bak paid a landmark visit to India, as Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2010, when bilateral ties were raised to the level of Strategic Partnership. It was followed by President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil's State Visit to RoK from 24-27 July 2011 during which the Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement was signed. PM Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to Seoul on 24-27 March 2012 for both bilateral and Nuclear Security Summit when visa simplification agreement was signed. President Park Geun-hye paid a state visit to India from 15-18 January 2014. PM Narendra Modi paid a State Visit to Korea from 18-19 May 2015, during which bilateral relationship was upgraded to ‘Special Strategic Partnership’. Further, PM Modi and President Park had bilateral meetings on the sidelines of East Asia Summit on 08 September 2016 at Vientiane, Laos. PM Modi and President Moon on the sidelines of G-20 Summit in Hamburg on 08 July 2017. President Moon Jae-in paid a State Visit to India from July 08-11, 2018 and both countries issued a vision statement outlining shared vision for people, prosperity, peace and our future. First Lady of RoK H.E. Ms. Kim Jung-sook visited India from November 04-07, 2018 as Guest of Honour for the ‘Dipotsav’ Festival and participated in the ground breaking ceremony for construction of new memorial for Queen Suriratna at Ayodhya. PM Narendra Modi again paid a state visit to ROK from 21 - 22 February 2019 and unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the prestigious Yonsei University. PM Modi also gifted a Bodhi sapling to Gimhae City and received the Seoul Peace Prize. PM Modi and President Moon met again on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan on 28 June 2019. President Moon attended a special event in UN to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi's birth at the invitation of PM Modi, in September 2019. PM Modi and President Moon had telephonic conversation on April 09, 2020 and October 21, 2020 and discussed cooperation in tackling COVID-19 pandemic. President Moon Jae-in and PM Modi attended the G20 Summit in Rome and exchanged courtesies on 30 October 2021. PM Modi gave a congratulatory tweet just after the election victory of President –elect Yoon Suk-yeol in March 11, 2022. They also had telephonic conversation on March 17, 2022. PM Modi had a brief interaction with President Yoon on the sidelines of G20 summit at Bali on November 15, 2022. EAM Dr. Jaishankar and ROK FM Chung Eui-yong met in Paris on 21 February 2022 on the sidelines of the Indo Pacific Ministerial Forum 2022. EAM further met ROK’s new FM Park Jin on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting at Bali on 8 July 2022.
5. The Speaker of National Assembly Chung Sye-kyun visited India from 07 to 10 March, 2018 and further strengthened the relationship. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla had a bilateral meeting with his ROK counterpart Park Byeong-seug in Vienna on the sidelines of the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament on 8 September 2021. ROK Deputy Speaker Ms. Kim Young-joo met Deputy Chairman Rajya Sabha Harvansh Singh on the sidelines of G20 Parliamentary Speaker’s Summit in Indonesia on 7 October. She also had a bilateral visit to India on 8-11 October, 2022 and met members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.
Economic Relations - Trade
6. Trade and economic relations gathered momentum following the implementation of CEPA in 2010. Bilateral trade in 2021 reached record level at USD 23.7 billion despite a pandemic year. Earlier, in 2020, bilateral trade had contracted to USD 16.9 billion from earlier USD 20 billion plus trade figures in 2018 and 2019. Major items of India’s exports to Korea are mineral fuels/oil distillates (mainly naphtha), cereals, iron and steel. On the other hand, Korea’s main export items are automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery & parts and iron and steel products.
7. India and ROK launched an initiative ‘Korea Plus’, as proposed by Prime Minister Modi in June 2016 in India to promote and facilitate Korean Investments in India. A Korea India SME and Start-up Centre was launched in September 2019. According to data from Korea Exim Bank, ROK’s total FDI to India up to December 2021 stands at USD 7.27 billion. Investment from India to Korea are to the tune of approx. USD 3 billion led by Tata Daewoo, Ssangyong and Novelis. In total, there are more than 603 large and small Korean firms operating in India. Novelis, a Hindalco subsidiary, acquired a Korean aluminium company by investing about USD600 million (their total investment in RoK is nearing USD2 billion now). Tata Motors acquired Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company for USD 102 million in March 2004. The State Bank of India opened a branch in Seoul on 13 Jan 2016 to provide wide range of services including loan services and project financing for Korean and Indian companies. The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Korea(ICCK) comprising Indian and Korean companies play a constructive role in promoting trade and investments linkages between the two countries and assist Embassy in organising seminars and events on business promotions. ICCK’s total membership is around 70 members, which includes Novelis Asia, Deloitte Anjin, Kookmin Bank, etc.
8. An Indian Cultural Centre (renamed later as Swami Vivekananda Culture Centre (SVCC)) was established on July 1, 2011 as a cultural wing of the Embassy of India, Seoul. On 06 December 2013, another Indian Culture Centre was established in Busan under Public Private Partnership (PPP) model which was later closed in March 2021. An India Centre for promotion of India focused activities in the Busan University of Foreign Studies(BUFS) was inaugurated on June 27, 2022. SARANG, the festival of India in Korea has been organised every year by the Embassy since 2015, to showcase diverse Indian culture and art forms in various parts of ROK.
9. A bust of Gurudev was unveiled in Seoul by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar in May 2011. Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh gifted a sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree to President Park Geun-hye, during her State Visit to India in January 2014. A bust of Mahatma Gandhi, presented by ICCR, was unveiled at the Hongbeop-sa temple in Busan on July 21, 2014. A Bodhi Tree sapling and a bust of Mahatma Gandhi installed at Yonsei University, Songdo Campus, Incheon were gifted by PM Modi during his State visit to ROK in 2019. Another statue of Gandhi was gifted by ICCR in October 2019 to Gimhae City and was installed at the Yeonji Park, a section of which has been developed as India-Korea Friendship Park based on the life experiences of Mahatma Gandhi. As part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, a Korea-India Peace Park was unveiled on June 3, 2019 and 150 trees planted at the historic Independence Park, Seodaemun district in Seoul. A statue of Lord Buddha was gifted by ICCR to the Tongdo-sa Temple in May 2021.
10. There is large potential for tourism between the two countries. In order to facilitate Korean tourists coming to India, Visa-on-Arrival facility for Korean nationals was introduced from October 1, 2018. The Visa-on-Arrival facility can be availed for the purpose of Business, Tourism, Conference and Medical related travel to India. This facility is available at six airports in India i.e New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The total number of Visa issued to Korean nationals by the Mission (excluding e-visa/VoA) in 2018 was 34754; in 2019 was 25369; in 2020 was 5386; in 2021 was 6869; and in 2022 was 3243 (upto July 31). Relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions, and resumption of direct flight connectivity between the two countries, in post COVID-19 period is expected to boost the tourism sector.
11. The total number of Indian nationals living in ROK is estimated to be around 12,500, which includes around 300 PIOs. A large number of Indian scholars are pursuing post-graduate and Ph. D programmes, mostly in pure sciences in Korea. During the past few years, many professionals mainly in the areas of IT, shipping and automobile have immigrated to ROK. They are working mostly with companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai TATA Daewoo, TCS, Coupang etc. There is also significant number of students and academicians in the universities. Associations of expatriate Indians in RoK including Indians in Korea (IIK) - comprising mostly of professionals, Indian Student Association in Korea, and others based on regions/languages are active. They function under the aegis of the Embassy and undertake various cultural and social activities every year.
21 November 2022