European Union External Action

The Republic of Korea and the EU

The EU and the Republic of Korea recognise each other as like-minded partners on the global stage.


Korea matters to the EU. It is an example of a country that despite wide cultural and geographic distances shares the EU's commitment to democracy, human rights and the market economy.


Strategic Partnership

The importance of the relationship in tackling the key challenges of the 21st century has been recognised with the establishment in 2010 of a new institutional framework to facilitate cooperation.


The Strategic Partnership declared by the EU and Korean presidents in 2010 reflects the fact that the EU and Korea are actors with the means to make a difference on global issues. It will enhance coordination and cooperation on the most important international and regional concerns.


The enhanced 2010 EU-Korea Framework Agreement provides the basis for strengthened cooperation and dialogue across the board. It addresses a wide range of international concerns including non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, climate change, energy security and development assistance.


The EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the Republic of Korea has been applied since July 2011 and formally entered into force in 2015. It is the EU's first trade deal with an Asian country.

This new generation of agreements goes further than previous FTAs in moving beyond tariff liberalisation by tackling other trade barriers. The Agreement eliminates tariffs for industrial and agricultural goods in a progressive, step-by-step approach. Only a limited number of agricultural products are excluded from tariff elimination.

The implementation phase of the FTA is now ongoing to ensure that the mechanisms used are efficient and effective in providing market access and investment opportunities for EU businesses in the Republic of Korea and Korean businesses in the EU.  

The FTA is put into practice through an annual Trade Committee, seven Specialised Committees, seven Working Groups and an Intellectual Property Dialogue.

The last ministerial level Trade Committee took place in Brussel on 16 December 2016 between TRADE Commissioner Malmström and MOTIE Minister Joo. Next meeting is scheduled for September 2017.

For practical information concerning application of the FTA, please consult the Market Access Data Base.

Stakeholders can send enquiries concerning implementation of the EU-South Korea FTA via an online enquiry form.


EU-Republic of Korea Trade Relations

The Republic of Korea is nowadays one of the most dynamic economies in the world. With a GDP of over €1,377 billion, it was ranked 11th place in the world in 2017. In view of the Republic of Korea's significance, it became one of the 10 strategic partners of the EU.

From the commercial standpoint, the Republic of Korea is a very important partner for the EU. In 2016 it was the EU's 8th largest supplier and the 9th largest export market. For the Republic of Korea, the EU has consolidated its position as the country's 2nd largest supplier and the 3rd largest export market.

Bilateral trade remains concentrated on high added-value and technology-intensive sectors: machinery and transport equipment, telecommunication equipment, chemicals, etc. In addition, in the fast-growing service sector, bilateral EU-Republic of Korea trade has increased dramatically over recent years.

The EU is the largest investor in the country. The EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock in the Republic of Korea increased 8 % from 2014 to 2015 (latest data available) to reach €49.7 billion, accounting for over 20 % of the FDI stock in the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, Korean investments in the EU experienced growth of 19 % in the same period, amounting to a total stock of €20.9 billion.

Cooperation on competition policy

The EU and the Republic of Korea have a cooperation agreement concerning the application of their competition laws to anti-competitive activities. The agreement was signed in 2009 and the EU and Korean competition authorities are cooperating regularly on investigations of cases of international cartels or other anti-competitive practices affecting our economies.


The EU Partnership Instrument

The EU Partnership Instrument (PI) for cooperation with countries that are not members of the EU aims to advance and promote the EU and mutual interests.

Since 2014, a number of PI projects in Korea have emerged as a direct result of the collaboration between the EU Delegation to the Republic of Korea and EU countries with Korean public authorities, civil society organisations, business promotion agencies, academia and more.

Among the key ongoing PI projects are:


The EU Gateway Programme

EU Gateway to Korea is an initiative funded by the EU that helps companies from the 28 EU countries to establish long-lasting business partnerships in Korea. From 2016 to 2020, the EU Gateway to Korea Programme aims at bringing up to 1000 European companies to Korea over 20 missions to explore cooperation opportunities with Korean companies in specific sectors: Green Energy Technologies, Environment and Water Technologies, Construction and Building Technologies, Contemporary European Design, Healthcare & Medical Technologies, Organic Food & Beverages.

EU-Korea FTA Evaluation

The FTA evaluation study aims at providing an in-depth analysis of the efficiency and effectiveness of the FTA on EU business operators and consumers in Korea, by directly targeting EU businesses active in Korea as well as local stakeholders.



The EU and the Republic of Korea both recognise the social and economic value of a strong higher education system, and both societies face similar challenges in terms of ageing populations and the need to compete in high-value sectors and nurture a skilled workforce to deal with these challenges.

The EU and Korea both have much to gain by expanding academic links. The outstanding reputation of Korean education, and the country's leading role in research and technological development, make Korea a highly valued partner.

On the practical level, over recent years, both sides have seen the practical value of cooperation and exchange, especially through Erasmus+ and the co-funded Industrialised Countries Instrument — Education Cooperation Programme (ICI-ECP). These have helped develop joint degrees, partnerships and mobility programmes which have enhanced academic exchanges and prepared students for the increasingly globalised and competitive labour market.


Other schemes include:

International Credit Mobility (Student mobility between Programme and non-EU countries):

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMD):

Joint Doctoral Programmes

Research Fellowship Programme — Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions  

Jean-Monnet Programmes for teaching and research in the field of European studies 



The EU, together with EU country embassies and cultural institutes in the Republic of Korea, provide access to a wide range of European creativity by working closely with local partners in the field of culture.

Bilaterally, the EU and the Republic of Korea cooperate on cultural issues through a Protocol on cultural cooperation under the EU-Republic of Korea  Free Trade Agreement. Particular emphasis is given to the audiovisual sector, granting preferential treatment for market access for co-production and the promotion of audiovisual works of the EU and the Republic of Korea through film festivals and similar initiatives.

Centrally, European culture is supported through the Creative Europe programme which runs from 2014 to 2020, has a budget of €1.46 billion, and supports initiatives including cultural cross-border cooperation and exchange and initiatives in the audiovisual sector.


EUNIC is the network of European national institutes of culture and national bodies engaged in cultural and related activities beyond their national borders. The EUNIC Cluster in Korea has organised film screenings, festivals and concerts.

EU in Korea

European Commission culture

The EU and South Korea are actively cooperating in the field of science and technology. The Agreement on the Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the EU and South Korea has been in force since 2007. In addition, the Agreement for Cooperation between Euratom and South Korea in the field of fusion energy research has been in force since 2006. The EU-Korea Joint Science & Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) takes place biennially. So far, both sides have agreed to strongly cooperate in five research areas:

  • ICT
  • nanotechnology
  • health/bio
  • energy
  • satellite navigation. 

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. During 2014-2015 under Horizon 2020, South Korean applicants submitted 61 proposals, involving 71 participations in collaborative actions, leading to 10 successful projects, involving 13 participations, with a success rate of 21.3 % (as compared to 10.6 % overall).


Horizon 2020 participation so far has mainly been in the areas of ICT, health, energy, climate action and satellite navigation.

EU countries have a set of far-reaching climate and energy targets and are putting in place concrete measures to achieve them. With its new Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 the European Commission is looking beyond its 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95 % by mid-century.

The Republic of Korea, the world's 12th largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country, submitted an 'intended nationally determined contribution' (INDC) to the Climate Convention (UNFCCC) Secretariat ahead of COP-21, which took place in Paris at the end of 2015. The country plans to reduce its GHG emissions by 37 % by 2030 compared with a business-as-usual scenario in 2030.

The EU welcomes the Republic of Korea's new target and appreciates its active and constructive contribution to multilateral dialogue processes such as international negotiations on climate change and the Major Economies Forum.

Bilaterally, the EU and the Republic of Korea have cooperated on a wide range of issues in the field of climate change, especially technical cooperation on the emissions trading scheme. As the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a key policy for both sides toward meeting the target of reducing GHG emissions, the EU and the Republic of Korea have launched a technical cooperation project on the ETS. 

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