Media Statement

01 December 2022

South Africa and the Republic of Korea celebrate 30 years of Diplomatic Relations

The Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Korea are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Diplomatic Relations this year. Formal diplomatic relations between the RSA and the ROK were established on 1 December 1992, two years after the release of Mr Nelson Mandela from prison.

However, our historic contact can be traced as far back as the Korean War of 1950-53, when the Second Fighter Squadron of the then South African Air Force (SAAF) was part of South Africa’s contribution to the United Nations Command with a total of 826 South Africans who fought in Korea, with 36 casualties. It is notable that these fallen heroes are aptly honoured at a section of the new Korean Cultural Centre in Brooklyn.

South Africa and the ROK diplomatic relations have strengthened across all sectors of cooperation. Since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1992, South Africa and the ROK have concluded sixteen bilateral agreements. These agreements cover cooperation in sectors such as air transport, the protection of investments, the avoidance of double taxation, science and technology, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, extradition, ICT, vocational training and energy.

South Africa and the ROK have complementary economies and enjoy relatively good economic relations. The relationship is driven by demand for raw materials in Korea and demand for consumer goods in South Africa. South Africa is the ROK’s largest trading partner in Africa.

Both countries share painful histories of conflict, violence, and exploitation. However, today we can celebrate our two countries’ belief in shared universal values, the most important core value being freedom. As the ROK recently marked the 1945 end of colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula, South Africa also annually celebrate the end of apartheid rule and of achieving our long hard struggle to achieve freedom and democracy since 1994. We celebrate this 30th year commemoration with our economic partnership on strong foundation of our relations. SA is the ROK’s largest trading partner in Africa while the ROK is South Africa’s fourth largest trading partner in Asia. Between 2003 and 2019, the ROK had 15 foreign direct investment projects in South Africa representing a total capital investment of around R31.27 billion. Total trade between South Africa and the ROK was around R47 billion in 2021, with SA exports to the ROK amounting to R31 billion and SA imports reaching R16 billion, thus reflecting a positive trade balance of R18 billion.

In April 1997, the two countries established a Policy Consultative Forum (PCF) as a way of focusing and structuring their bilateral relations and institutionalising regular bilateral meetings. After seven meetings of the PCF between 2002 and 2013, the two countries decided during the 8th meeting of the PCF in 2014 to elevate it to the level of Joint Cooperation Commission (JCC) at ministerial level. Minister Pandor and her ROK counterpart HE Mr PARK Jin Co-chaired the inaugural Joint Co-operation Commission (JCC), which was held in Seoul on 11 October 2022. This forum provides the framework through which SA and the ROK structure and strengthen our bilateral relations.

The Late President Nelson Mandela paid a State Visit to Korea in 1995, while former President Myung-bak Lee visited South Africa in July 2011 for a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Former President Jacob Zuma visited Korea (ROK/South Korea) in March 2012 to attend a Nuclear Summit. On 1 December 2018, Presidents Ramaphosa and Moon had a meeting on the margins of the G-20 Summit in Argentina on request of the latter, during which they discussed various issues related to bilateral relations.

The former ROK Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Kang Kyung-wha, undertook a Working Visit to South Africa from 14 to 15 July 2019, during which she had a bilateral meeting with Minister Pandor. During this meeting, the two ministers inter alia agreed to co-chair the first JCC meeting at ministerial level at the earliest mutually convenient opportunity.

Under the Korean Global Scholarship Programme (KGSP) administered by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) under the banner of its Knowledge Sharing Programme (KSP), the ROK has been very active in assisting South Africa through valuable knowledge and skills transfer initiatives in various areas of expertise, while the South African community in Korea largely consists of graduates teaching English at Korean schools all over the country.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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