50 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Switzerland and South Korea

Bern, Press release, 08.02.2013

On 11 February 2013, the Swiss Confederation and the Republic of Korea will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Today, the relationship between the two countries is characterized by increasingly intensive contacts and a growing volume of trade. The year 2013 will furthermore mark yet another jubilee: 60 years of Swiss presence and peace-policy commitment on the inner-Korean border.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and South Korea was announced on 11 February 1963, and goes back to the recognition of the Republic of Korea by Switzerland on 19 December 1962. Accordingly, the festivities for the 50 year anniversary already began last year. Switzerland, for instance, paid tribute to its friendship with South Korea by its successful participation at the Yeosu World Expo last summer, as well as within the scope of various cultural events in Seoul during the “Swiss Weeks” held in the spring of 2012. Furthermore, the Swiss Embassy in Seoul published a comprehensive retrospective in celebration of the Jubilee.

On the political level, bilateral relations with South Korea were further strengthened by regular high-level visits. An official visit by Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer in July 2011 was followed in March 2012 by the participation of Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, where he held talks with the South Korean Foreign Minister. And on 1 February 2013, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Byong-hun met with State Secretary Yves Rossier for comprehensive political consultations in Fribourg. In their mutual congratulatory letters marking the Jubilee, both Swiss President Maurer und South Korean President Lee Myung-bak highlighted the quality and the scope of the bilateral relations that have developed over the last five decades.

Today, South Korea is a key partner of Switzerland in Asia. Economic exchange, for example, has not ceased to increase in scope and took a dramatic leap after the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – of which Switzerland is a member - entered into force in 2006. Trade in goods reached a new record high in 2011 for a total of CHF 2.8 billion (+3.8%). And for Swiss investors too, the country is becoming ever more attractive. In this connection, it is significant that in late 2010, a “Swiss Business Hub” was opened in Seoul.

More recently, cooperation particularly in the domain of education, research, and innovation has been strengthened. Since as early as 1963, Switzerland has been offering Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to young research scientists and artists from South Korea. Following the conclusion of a bilateral framework agreement on scientific cooperation in 2008, both States jointly launched the programme entitled Korean-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation, a framework for the financing of research and mobility projects. Switzerland has defined South Korea as one of its seven non-European priority countries for the period 2013-2016.

Represented for 60 years on the inner-Korean border

In addition to the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the year 2013 will mark yet another jubilee for Switzerland’s presence in Korea. For the last 60 years, Switzerland has been represented as an active member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) on the inner-Korean border. Its presence in Panmunjom is testimony of Switzerland’s peace-policy commitment to security and stability on the Korean peninsula.

Further information:

Bilateral relations between Switzerland and South Korea
Jubilee publication “50 Years Switzerland-Korea”
Media release on Switzerland’s presence at the World Expo in Yeosu (de)
Bilateral Programme of the Swiss Confederation to promote research cooperation with priority countries
Further information on the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC)

Address for enquiries:

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs