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India-South Korea Relations 

  • IASbaba
  • July 25, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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INTERNATIONAL / SECURITY 

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3

  • India and its neighborhood- relations.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas

India-South Korea Relations 

Context: Despite numerous bilateral agreements between India and South Korea the relationship has not been able to move to next level. 

Did You Know? 

  • Korean Buddhist Monk Hyecho (704–787 CE) or Hong Jiao visited India from 723 to 729 AD and wrote travelogue ”Pilgrimage to the five kingdoms of India” which gives a vivid account of Indian culture, politics & society. 
  • Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore has composed a short but evocative poem – ’Lamp of the East’ - in 1929 about Korea’s glorious past and its promising bright future. 

A brief history of India-South Korea Relation 

  • During the Korean War (1950- 53), India has played a major role in cease-fire agreement signed between both the warring sides and the ceasefire was declared on 27 July 1953. 
  • The relationship did not move much till 1990s due to South Korea’s closeness to US and India either following non-aligned or under Russian influence 
  • The economic relation between India and South Korea grew after economic reforms in India which led to signing of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2010 
  • Relations between India and South Korea was raised to the level of Strategic Partnership in January 2010 and upgraded to Special strategic partnership in 2015 
  • India has a major role to play in South Korea’s Southern Policy under which Korea is looking at expanding relations beyond its immediate region. 
  • Similarly, South Korea is a major player in India’s Act East Policy under which aims to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific. 

Challenges with Bilateral Relationship 

1. Stagnation in Economic relationship

  • The economic partnership is struck at $22 billion annually. 
  • Also, the defence partnership appears to have receded from great all-round promise to the mere sale and purchase of weapon systems. 

2. Cultural Prejudices on both sides preventing people-to-people ties

  • Cold War Era perception: There may be a widespread perception among South Koreans of India as a third world country, rife with poverty and hunger.  
  • Indian Diaspora: Within South Korea, the integration of Indians in the local population is far from complete, with some instances of racial prejudice or discrimination toward Indians 
  • Inadequate acknowledgment of Korean Culture: To a certain extent Indians are unable to distinguish between the cultural and social characteristics of South Koreans from that of Japanese/Chinese. 
  • All these stands in the way of a relationship based on openness, curiosity and warmth. 

3. Unfulfilled potential of Cultural Centres

  • Indian Culture Centre (ICC) was established in Seoul 10 years ago to promote people-to-people contacts. 
  • However, ICC has to reach an exponentially wider audience and its focus has to expand beyond the urban, English-speaking elite of Seoul.  
  • The same may be applicable to South Korean culture centres in India. 

Way Forward 

  • As the balance of power in the region continues to shift fast, India and South Korea may need each like never before, to protect their ways of life.  
  • However, both countries will be able to help each other only if they can fill the cultural gaps. 

Connecting the dots 

  • Challenges w.r.t. North Korea 
  • Kim Jong-un and Trump’s historic meeting in Singapore in 2018 

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