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Building the pillars of the EU-South Korea strategic partnership


This paper explores the evolution of the policy agenda of the EU-South Korea strategic partnership, based on key pillars of cooperation: politics, security, and economics. In the political arena, the Framework Agreement has provided a major platform for promoting EU-Korea political dialogue and developing a common stance toward a shared global agenda. When it comes to security, the main agenda involves North Korea’s missiles, nuclear program, and the challenge of nonproliferation; the two parties have coordinated sanctions against North Korea. South Korea has enacted a Crisis Management Participation Agreement (FPA) with the EU and begun to participate in the EU common security and defence policy. The changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula, as a consequence of recent inter-Korean and US-North Korea dialogues, may offer the EU new opportunities for constructive engagement. In the economic arena, the EU-Korea FTA has established solid trade and investment relations. While these pillars of the strategic partnership have led to stable and mature bilateral relations, both the EU and South Korea need to find new momentum for an enhanced partnership to deal with the ongoing challenge of global security instability and the backlash against the liberal international order. The EU-South Korea strategic partnership also needs a global agenda that covers climate change, technology, education, and culture. This study assesses the development of each pillar of the strategic partnership, addressing key challenges, tasks, and future diplomatic developments between the EU and South Korea.

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  1. 1.

    Among the EU’s nine strategic partners, four countries are in America (Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States), four are in Asia (China, India, Japan, and South Korea) and one is in Africa (South Africa). Russia used to be an EU strategic partner, but this partnership was suspended when Russia violated Ukrainian territorial integrity. For more information, see Schmidt-Felzmann (2016).

  2. 2.

    On December 20, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/72/188) to promote human rights in North Korea without voting (United Nations 2017).

  3. 3.

    For more information, see

  4. 4.

    According to Ferreira-Pereira and Vieira (2018), three countries have an FPA with the EU. They are Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.

  5. 5.

    In June 2016, both parties launched a technical cooperation project called KETS (Korea-EU ETS Project), which is one of the active projects within the EU’s Partnership Instrument (PI). KETS is also known as Climate Change: Implementation of an Emissions Trading System in the Republic of Korea. Its objective is to assist South Korea in its efforts to meet its carbon emission reduction target of 30% by 2020, against a BAU trajectory set up in 2009 by establishing an effective emission trading system in Korea. This project aims to provide technical assistance on essential matters related to the implementation and operation of the KETS (Timeframe: January 2016–January 2018; the budget is €3.4 million). For more information, see

  6. 6.

    The Korean Ministry of Science and ICT claimed that the EU and South Korea shared four areas of strategic importance; the budgets for these four areas are as follows: ICT (€ 12 million), nanotechnology (€ 54 million), health/bio (€ 4 million), and energy (€ 3 million). For more information, see

  7. 7.

    EUNIC Korea is a network of National Institutes for Culture from EU member states in Korea; it aims to contribute to cultural diversity inside and outside the EU, and to strengthen cultural dialogue and exchange. The EUNIC Korea Cluster is part of a network of over 90 EUNIC clusters present on all continents. For more information, see

  8. 8.

    For more information, see

  9. 9.

    The EU supports European cultural industry through the Creative Europe Program, which supports various initiatives, including cultural cross-border cooperation and exchange and initiatives in the audio-visual sector. The duration is 2014–2020 and the budget is €1.46 billion.


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Sae Won Chung is the first author.

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Chung, S.W., Lee, JS. Building the pillars of the EU-South Korea strategic partnership. Asia Eur J 17, 327–340 (2019).

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  • EU
  • South Korea
  • North Korea
  • Strategic partnership
  • Framework Agreement