The European Union (EU) is forging strong economic and political relations with the Republic of Korea. Education, science and technology and climate change are important areas of cooperation. 

The EU also has a policy of critical engagement towards the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Its goals are to support a lasting diminution of tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region, to uphold the international non-proliferation regime and to improve the situation of human rights in the DPRK.

Political Relations

The citizens of the European Union have enjoyed six decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity and security. Based on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, the EU is the most successful peace project in history. In recognition of its efforts to advance the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. The EU decided to dedicate the prize money to children who are denied the chance of growing up in peace.

The second-largest global economy and the biggest global market, the EU is also a global security provider. The 2016 Global Strategy for the EU's Foreign and Security Policy which is guided by key principles, will enhance the security of its citizens and its territory and reinforce the role of the EU as a responsible global actor. 

In spite of their wide cultural differences and the geographic distance that sets them apart, the Republic of Korea and the EU share the same commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and a market economy. 

Since the upgrade of relations between the EU and the Republic of Korea to a Strategic Partnership, in 2010, the level of commitment from both sides has been very high. The three key agreements, covering all three pillars of political, trade and security, as well as more specific agreements in several fields, offer a wide scope for cooperation and room for further development of relations between the European Union and the Republic of Korea. 

Because it is one of the EU’s only 10 strategic partners (4 in Asia), the Republic of Korea is extremely important for the EU, which sees it as a country with the political and economic clout to make a difference at the global and regional levels, to contribute to the resolution of international crises and to address the key challenges of the 21st century. 

The bilateral agreement (in force since 2014) sets up the overall framework for our bilateral cooperation and addresses a wide range of international concerns, including the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights, counter-terrorism, climate change, energy security and development assistance. Those are areas where cooperation can be enhanced. 

The bilateral  Free Trade Agreement (FTA) (in force since 2015) aims at removing barriers to bilateral trade, thereby creating an expanded and secure market for goods and services and a stable and predictable environment for investment. It is the most ambitious trade deal ever implemented by the EU and a success story deal for both the EU and the RoK.  

The bilateral Crisis Management Participation Agreement (FPA) (in force since 2016) reinforces our strategic partnership and politically underlines our shared values and security interests. As one of the most advanced democracies in Asia, RoK's capacity in civilian administration, law enforcement and peacekeeping could significantly boost EU-led missions and contribute to peace and stability worldwide. 

During the 8th Summit between the EU and the Republic of Korea, which was held on 15 September 2015 in Seoul, both sides agreed to continue to invest in comprehensive, mutually beneficial and future-oriented relations. 

The last Joint Committee meeting, which took place in Seoul on 23 June 2016, gave the opportunity to consolidate the existing comprehensive cooperation and to deliver the commitments agreed in the framework of the 2015 bilateral summit. 

The bilateral Framework Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea.

The Framework Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea was signed on 10 May 2010 and entered into force on 1 June 2014.  

The first Agreement of its kind between the EU and an Asian country, the Framework Agreement still provides a comprehensive legal framework covering a wide spectrum of policy fields, including inter alia human rights, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combating terrorism, the fight against corruption and organised crime, trade, migration, environment, energy, climate change, transport, science and technology, employment and social affairs, education, agriculture, development assistance, culture, etc. 

The Framework Agreement established a Joint Committee to facilitate the implementation and to further the general aims of the Agreement, to maintain the overall coherence in the relations and to ensure the proper functioning of any other agreement between the Parties. The 13th Joint Committee meeting was held on 23 June 2016 in Seoul. 

More than 35 different bilateral dialogues and regular meetings allow the EU and the Republic of Korea to advance cooperation on a number of political, sectoral and global issues. The Joint Committee established under the bilateral Framework Agreement ensures and monitors its implementation. 

Human Rights

Like in the Republic of Korea, fundamental rights are guaranteed nationally by the constitutions of the Member States and at EU level by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Under the aegis of the UN bodies, the Republic of Korea and the European Union also promote human rights abroad. The European Union views all human rights as universal, indivisible and interdependent. It actively promotes and defends them both within its borders and when engaging in relations with non-EU countries. 

The 2012 strategic framework on human rights and democracy is designed to make EU human rights policy more effective and consistent. Promoting human rights work can help to prevent and resolve conflicts and, ultimately, to alleviate poverty. 

In 2012, the EU appointed Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis as a Special representative for human rights. The EU has also adopted a number of guidelines to promote specific human rights. EU guidelines are not legally binding, but because they have been adopted at ministerial level, they represent a strong political signal that they are priorities for the Union. 

In 2017, the EU revised the 2008 guidelines for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child

The Member States of the European Union are all Parties to the UN Human Rights Convention and the European Union is a State Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its own right.   

The Republic of Korea is party to most of the main International Human Rights instruments with the exception of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against torture and the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the Death Penalty. The Republic of Korea has not acceded to four of the ILO’s core conventions, Conventions 29 and 105 on forced labour and Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association, the protection of the right to organise and collective bargaining. The positions of the Republic of Korea and the European Union are aligned in the Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly - not least on the issue of Human Rights in the DPRK especially the EU-Japan led resolution. 

During the latest Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council, which took place in 2012, the Republic of Korea accepted 42 of the 70 recommendations issued. The third UPR will be taking place in 2017. 

Every year, the EU and the Republic of Korea hold human rights consultations, marks international human rights day (10 December) and other international day events relating to human rights, such as International Women’s Day (8 March). The EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy appraises its human rights work worldwide on a thematic basis and on a geographical basis, including in the Republic of Korea. 

Disarmament and Non Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The EU strongly and consistently supports international diplomatic and counter-proliferation efforts and works closely with the Republic of Korea on addressing DPRK nuclear and ballistic challenges. In support of the UN Security Council resolutions, the EU has adopted a series of sanctions, including additional sanctions, lastly on 6 April 2017. 

Since its establishment, the European External Action Service (EEAS), coordinates the EU positions in international non-proliferation and disarmament fora, to ensure the active and visible EU role. In 2013, Jacek Bylica was appointed as the EU Special Envoy on Non-proliferation and Disarmament in order to reinforce EU action and enhance the visibility of its relevant policies. 

The Republic of Korea is also active, as one of the 65 members of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which was established in 1979 to negotiate the Biological Weapons Convention(link is external) and the Chemical Weapons Convention. In November 2016, the 15th Republic of Korea-United Nations joint conference on disarmament and non-proliferation issues was held on Jeju Island. 

The engagement of the Republic of Korea towards promoting the international non-proliferation regime, including as the chair of Nuclear Supplier's Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime has to be underlined. 

In November 2016, the Republic of Korea became the 91st State Party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the European Union looks forward to working together with the Republic of Korea on the effective implementation of the ATT. 

The participation of the Republic of Korea in EU crisis management operations.

The bilateral Agreement on EU crisis management operations came into force in December 2016 and reinforces the Strategic Partnership between the two entities by establishing a framework for the participation of the RoK in EU crisis management operations of a civilian and military character. 

There are currently 16 EU crisis management operations in the world, where the EU mobilises all relevant instruments (political, diplomatic, economic, financial, military, consular, judicial and development aid related) to respond to emerging or ongoing crises throughout the world. 

In March 2017, only a few months after the entry into force of the bilateral Agreement, the Republic of Korea dispatched the warship Choi Young to the EU naval force’s counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. 

Economic and Trade Relations

Trade Relations with the EU 

The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the Republic of Korea was applied in July 2011 and formally entered into force in 2015. It is the first trade deal with an Asian country and the most ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement implemented by the EU to date. 

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. 

More information in the Practical Guide to the FTA and Success Stories 

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 Brussels on the 16th December 2016 between TRADE Commissioner Malmström and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) Minister Joo. The next meeting is scheduled for September 2017. 

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

Stakeholders can send inquiries concerning the implementation of the EU-South Korea FTA via an online inquiry 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 is ranked 11th place in the world in 2017. In view of the Republic of Korea's significance, Korea became one of the 10 strategic partners of the EU.   

From a 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. 

Sectorial breakdown of trade flows between Korea and the EU reflects their respective global trade patterns, with a focus 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 Republic of Korea. The EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock in the Republic of Korea increased 8 % from 2014 to 2015 (the 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 a growth of 19 % in the same period, amounting to a total stock of €20.9 billion. 

All the trade and investment statistics are available in EUROSTAT 

For a detailed overview please visit EU Commission site in the Republic of Korea 

Information for Korean exporters on the EU's rules and regulations for market access 

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. 

EU-Republic of Korea Economic Relations 

In the field of economic relations, the European Commission and the Republic of Korea work together not only in multilateral fora, like the G20, but also bilaterally in an annual macroeconomic dialogue. In this dialogue, both Parties analysed and exchanged views on the respective economic situations and areas of mutual interest, and make policy recommendations. Since 2011, the EU-Korea Macroeconomic Dialogues have been held annually. 

The European economic recovery is expected to continue this year and next: for the first time in almost a decade, the economies of all EU Member States are expected to grow throughout the entire forecasting period (2016, 2017 and 2018). However, the outlook is surrounded by higher-than-usual uncertainty. 

The European economy demonstrated resilience in 2016, as it maintained its course of growth and job creation even as it faced a number of challenges. Growth was moderate but picked up slightly towards the end of the year, with the continued support of very accommodative monetary policy, low commodity prices, the euro’s relatively low exchange rate as well as endogenous factors such as improving labour market conditions. The resilience of the euro area recovery, however, cannot be taken for granted. While GDP has recovered to its pre-crisis level, the persistent weakness of investment casts a shadow over the sustainability of the recovery. 

GDP growth is expected to remain fairly steady in the euro area at 1.6% in 2017 and 1.8% in 2018. Private consumption, the main source of growth so far, is set to slow down as consumer prices rise and dampen real disposable income growth. It should, however, continue to benefit from rising employment, though to a lesser extent than in 2016. Investment growth is projected to remain moderate. On the one hand, investment should benefit from many favourable determinants including strengthening global activity, high capacity utilisation and policy support (e.g. low financing costs and the Investment Plan for Europe). 

However, a number of hindrances will remain, such as the high level of corporate and household debt in some Member States, the moderate demand outlook in Europe, and the high level of uncertainty. As regards trade, the expected pick-up in emerging market economies, and some advanced economies, should raise foreign demand for euro area exports. Although declining, growth differentials across euro area Member States remain large and the increase in benchmark yields and the USD appreciation could exacerbate these growth differences again. Unemployment in the euro area is forecast to fall further to 9.1% in 2018. Oil prices are expected to drive headline inflation in the euro area to 1.7% in 2017, but inflation is expected to drop back slightly to 1.4% in 2018. Core inflation is projected to slightly increase and stand at 1.4% in 2018. 

Downside risks to the growth outlook have intensified since the autumn of 2016 but upside risks have also emerged, at least for the short term. The factors supporting these upside risks, however, carry the seeds of their own decline. The eventual package of US fiscal stimulus and pro-business reforms could provide a strong near-term boost to the US and global GDP. However, new downside risks for the medium term are related to potential disruptions associated with shifting US positions on trade policy, a faster reversal of the US monetary policy stance and its impact, especially on emerging markets. Risks to the growth outlook are also associated with the process of the UK leaving the EU, remaining banking fragilities in the euro area, an abrupt drop in global investor risk appetite, as well as the possibility of a disorderly adjustment in China. Overall, risks to growth remain predominantly on the downside, while risks to the inflation outlook remain broadly balanced. 

On the EU economy, on March 17 the latest Quarterly Report on the Euro Area (QREA) was published: 

Quarterly Report on the Euro Area (QREA), Vol. 16, No. 1 (2017) 

Also, the homepage of the Commission has plenty of material on all aspects of the European economy. And the ECFIN winter forecast is still quite recent.

Climate Change and Energy

Preventing dangerous climate change is a key priority for the European Union, which is working hard to cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially while encouraging other nations, including the Republic of Korea, and other regions to do likewise. See EU climate action website.

With its roadmap for moving to a low carbon economy by 2050, the European Union 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 European Union is a Party to the Paris Agreement on Climate change, in its own right. 

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 Republic of Korea ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in November 2016

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. They are now in the process of launching a Low Carbon Action cooperation project. 

Education and Culture


The EU and the Republic of Korea both 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. In that context, they also recognise the crucial contribution higher education makes to developing a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy and so boosting growth and jobs inter alia through the promotion of entrepreneurship. 

The EU and the Republic of 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 the Republic of Korea a highly valued partner. 

The Joint Declaration signed on 11 November 2013 provides the framework for policy dialogue on issues of common interest in higher education. The first policy dialogue was held in Brussels (15/03/2016) to discuss practical ways of strengthening cooperation in higher education and to engage in an exchange of best practice, policy review and knowledge building and sharing. A second policy dialogue should be taking place in the Republic of Korea at a date to be determined. 

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 that have enhanced academic exchanges and prepared students for the increasingly globalised and competitive labour market. 

In the Republic of Korea, there are 4 Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence, which act as focal points of competence and knowledge on European Union subjects, in the following Universities: 

Moreover, there exists one EU Centre at the Korea University:

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  


Recognising the importance of culture in Foreign Policy, in 2016, the EU adopted a 'Strategy for international cultural relations' aiming at encouraging cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries and promoting a global order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. 

Together with the Embassies of the Member States and their cultural institutes in the Republic of Korea, the European Union provides 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, signed in 2010. Particular emphasis is given to the audio-visual sector, granting preferential treatment for market access for co-production and the promotion of audio-visual 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 audio-visual 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 the Republic of Korea has organised film screenings, festivals and concerts. 

Science and Technology

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. 

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 European Union and issues of mutual interests. It aims to support measures that respond in an effective and flexible manner to objectives arising from the Union's bilateral, regional or multilateral relationships with non-EU countries and address challenges of global concern and ensure an adequate follow-up to decisions taken at a multilateral level. 

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: 

Environment and green economy

  • The EU Gateway Programme 

Objective: EU Gateway to Korea is an initiative funded by the European Union that helps companies from the 28 EU Member States to establish long-lasting business partnerships in Korea. In 2016–2020, the EU aims to organise up to 20 EU Gateway to Korea business missions. They will operate in selected industry sectors where the potential for increased cooperation between European and Korean companies exists. 

Time-frame: January 2016 – January 2020 (60 months) 

Budget: €15.4 million 


Climate change

  • Implementation of an Emissions Trading System (ETS) in the Republic of Korea 

Objective: to assist the Republic of 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 (ETS) in Korea; the project aims to provide technical assistance on issues necessary for the implementation and operation of the KETS in its initial phase. 

Time-frame: January 2016 – January 2018 (36 months)   

Budget: €3.4 million 


Climate Change Outreach in Korea 

Objective: to raise public awareness in Korea on climate change related challenges in order to support a high level of ambition of climate action policy in Korea following the new international climate agreement at COP21 in Paris. 

Time-frame: June 2016 – November 2017 

Budget: €500 000 

Trade facilitation

  • Implementation of ILO Fundamental Convention 111 in the Republic of Korea and the Member States of the European Union 

Objective: to support and contribute to compliance with and proper implementation of Convention 111 in Korea and in the EU, and in doing so to contribute to the proper implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter in both Korea and in the EU. 

Time-frame: April 2016 – November 2016 (6 months) 

Budget: €220,000