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India-South Korea Relations [UPSC International Relations Notes]

India and South Korea share a very close historical relationship. According to various anecdotes, India and South Korea shared a matrimonial relationship in ancient times. In this article, you can read all about the bilateral relationship between India and South Korea for the UPSC Exam international relations segment.

India-South Korea Relations Historical Background

Bilateral relations between both countries were initiated in 1962 and reached the Ambassador level in 1973. 

  • The relationship was further strengthened with successive policies by the Indian government keeping the eastern partners at the centre. 
  • India’s Look East and Act East policies refined the relationship and brought both countries closer to each other. 
  • The changing global scenario and rising stature of India and the technological acumen of South Korea will further contribute to expanding the horizon of the relationship. 

Bilateral Relationship between India and South Korea

  • Economic cooperation: 
    • India and South Korea signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2010. Immediately after that, the bilateral trade in 2011 crossed USD 20.5 billion registering a 70% growth over a two-year period
    • Major items of India’s exports to Korea are mineral fuels/oil distillates, cereals, iron and steel. 
    • Korea’s main exported items constitute automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, nuclear reactors, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery & parts and iron and steel products. 
    • Additionally, Korean technology is best known across the world and India is making a huge leap forward in the field of technological manufacturing. This could be greatly helped by Korean contribution. 
  • Cultural ties:
    • To further expand cultural ties, an Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) was established in Seoul in 2011. Another Cultural Centre was established in Busan in 2013 in Public Private Partnership mode. 
    • With an intention to boost people-to-people contacts, a facility of VISA on arrival was agreed upon between both countries in 2014. 
    • The total number of Indian nationals living in the Republic of Korea is estimated to be around 11,000, which includes 120 PIOs. 
  • Defence cooperation: 
    • India is seeking to modernise its armed force with the induction of state-of-the-art technology in order to develop a  capacity to counter its belligerent neighbours. South Korea, a country which has vast experience and acumen for constructing advanced technology could greatly help India in its ambitions. 
    • In 2020, India and South Korea signed a Roadmap for Defence Industries Cooperation. Now, with the shift in Korea’s policy of increase in their defence expenditure, it is the right time to gain traction on this line. 
  • Correcting China’s expanse:
    • China’s expansionist policy is a cause of concern for all its neighbours even if it is not very imminent in the near term.
    • One of the major reasons which has contributed to the rise of China is its manufacturing capability. This has enabled the Chinese to accumulate a lot of wealth and use it against its neighbouring countries. 
    • Now, when the manufacturing units are shifting to other countries of the world, India and Korea can emerge as potential hubs for manufacturing.
  • Free Indo-Pacific region: 
    • South Korea’s participation in the Malabar Exercise with QUAD nations will further expand the idea of freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. 
    • The shift in South Korean policies will enable a strong Indian, South Korea and Japanese defence policy coordination that could effectively forge new joint regional security policies.
  • USA’s change in policy
    • If the Republicans come into power again in the US, there is a possibility that American forces deployed in South Korea will be withdrawn. This will in turn encourage North Korea to expand its muscles in the region. 
    • An independent, strong, and democratic South Korea can be a long-term partner with India, which will add significant value to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy. 
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
    • As of March 2022, South Korea is one of India’s largest foreign investors, with a total foreign direct investment (FDI) of more than USD5 billion.
    • South Korea has made diversified investments in India, which has helped us in the pursuit of becoming one of the fastest-growing economies of the world. Samsung, one of the biggest mobile manufacturers, had set up one of its largest manufacturing units in Noida. 
  • Climate change initiative: 
    • NITI Aayog has envisaged that by 2030 around 30% of vehicles on Indian roads would be electric vehicles. This will require India to make huge investments in ramping up the battery infrastructure. 
    • With state-of-the-art technology and research and development in the field of battery technology, South Korea can help India in solving the problem associated with battery technology. 
  • Global supply chain and logistics:
    • India has one of the highest logistics costs in the world. Logistics cost in India is about 14% of GDP, which is the highest as compared to international standards. The new logistics policy aims to reduce this logistics cost to 8% of the GDP. 
    • The growth trajectory in this sector is lucrative for South Korean giants such as CJ Logistics, which has adopted its automated distribution system for warehouses in various countries.

Conclusion: Changing international scenarios and shifting economic belts have opened up the floodgates of opportunities for countries across the world. In this atmosphere, a better relationship between India and South Korea could enable both countries to improve their situation. 

Also, refer to the International Relations India shares with other countries through the links given below:

India-South Korea Relations:- Download PDF Here

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