New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

New Zealand and Korea

New Zealand-Korea Relations: from past to present

New Zealand’s excellent bilateral relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK) is founded on strong political, economic, and security links going back to the Korean War. Diplomatic relations were established in 1962 and a resident Embassy opened in Seoul in 1971. In recent years the relationship has deepened through engagement in such areas as government interactions, economics and trade, people-to-people links, science and technology, education, film, culture, and promotion of shared interests in regional and global issues.

Government interactions are frequent and strong. There are also a range of institutionalised interactions allowing for regular ministerial-level and officials-level meetings. These include annual consultations of Foreign Ministers and regular Foreign Ministry, Economic, Treasury, Political and Military, Customs, Forestry, and Agriculture Consultations. Valuable political and parliamentary links have been built up through the Prime Minister's Fellowship Programme and parliamentary exchanges.

Economic partnership

The economic partnership is founded on a mutually beneficial trade relationship. ROK is New Zealand’s ninth-largest bilateral trading partner with two-way trade worth NZ$2.7 billion in 2008 (New Zealand exports to ROK totalled NZ$1.36 billion; ROK’s exports to New Zealand totalled NZ$1.31 billion). Trade is complementary with New Zealand exporting logs, aluminium, beef, kiwifruit, diary and seafood, and ROK supplying capital and consumer items such as cars, electronics equipment and machinery.

Prime Minister John Key and President Lee Myung-bak officially announced the intention to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement in March 2009, during President Lee’s visit to New Zealand. Three rounds of negotiations took place in 2009.

Korean's in New Zealand and vice versa

The Korean community in New Zealand, which numbers around 32,000 people, provides a vibrant base for the bilateral relationship. The latest census revealed that almost 1% of New Zealand’s population is of Korean ethnicity, the third Asian largest group after those from China and India. Per capita, New Zealand has one of the highest expatriate Korean communities in the world. There are several prominent members amongst New Zealand’s Korean community including golfer Danny Lee, who became the youngest winner of the US Amateur Championship in history in 2008. Sister City Agreements have been concluded between several cities, including Auckland and Busan and Christchurch and Seoul’s Songpa District.

The education relationship is characterised by a significant number of young Korean students studying in New Zealand. The Republic of Korea is Zealand’s second largest source country for international students after China

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is New Zealand’s sixth largest source of tourists. New Zealand has a Working Holiday Scheme with ROK, which is a reciprocal arrangement whereby young New Zealanders and Koreans can work in the other country for a period of up to one year. The Working Holiday Scheme quota of 1,800 persons (increased by 20% in 2008) is fully subscribed every year by Koreans wanting to come to New Zealand.

Though considerably fewer New Zealanders travel to Korea under the scheme. There is, however, a sizeable New Zealand community in ROK, comprising 1,500-2,000 professionals, English-language teachers, and Koreans with New Zealand residency.

Film and technology

There is increasing collaboration between New Zealand and the Republic of Korea film industries in making feature films and television dramas. Several ROK films have been partially made or post-produced in New Zealand. A Film Co-production Agreement was signed in 2008 following a 2005 Audiovisual Cooperation Arrangement which sought to facilitate cooperation in a range of areas, including training.

There are a wide range of ongoing joint activities under a Science and Technology Cooperation Arrangement (STCA) signed between science ministries in 1997. The first Focal Point Programme (FPP) established under the STCA focused on environmental science, biotechnology and material science. A second Focal Point Programme to promote collaboration in the fields of food innovation, renewable energy and nanotechnology was launched during President Lee’s visit to New Zealand.

Information and communications technology (ICT) has emerged as a further potential area for collaboration. There are synergies between New Zealand and ROK’s ICT sectors that provide a basis for industry-to-industry collaboration. ROK is the most wired country in the world and a global leader in the development and commercialisation of new technologies (such as wireless broadband and ultra-fast networking technology). New Zealand has capabilities in research, software design and leveraging off high-technology.

Bilateral defence

A strong bilateral defence relationship has developed since New Zealand’s involvement in the Korean War when over 6,000 New Zealand troops served in the conflict, 45 of whom lost their lives. New Zealand veterans visit ROK each April for commemorative ceremonies at the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan, where the graves of 34 New Zealanders are found, at Kap'yong, and in Seoul. New Zealand continues to support efforts to bring peace and security to the Korean Peninsula as a member of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC).

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