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France and South Korea

Political relations

On 4 June 1886, France and Korea signed a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, marking the start of diplomatic relations which have continued to develop. During the Korean War, France, within the United Nations Command, supported South Korea. It provided a contingent of over 3,400 men who were part of UN forces. During the commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Armistice in 2013, Mr Kader Arif, Minister Delegate for Veterans, represented France at the official ceremonies and paid tribute to the 270 French soldiers killed in Korea between 1950 and 1953.

France maintains close dialogue with South Korea on major international and global issues (development, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, etc.).

The President of Korea, Ms Park Geun-hye, made an official visit in France on 2-4 November 2013. It was decided to strengthen the comprehensive partnership between the two countries, with precise objectives in all the areas set out in the joint statement issued during the visit.

The South Korean Prime Minister, Mr Hwang Kyo-ahn, visited France on 16-19 September 2015. The visit was an opportunity to inaugurate the France-Korea Year. An agreement to facilitate the mobility of professionals and trainees was also signed. This will help develop human and economic exchanges between our two countries.

The President of the French Republic, François Hollande, made an official visit to South Korea on 4 November 2015. The France-Korea Action Plan for a 21st Century Strengthened Comprehensive Partnership was adopted on that occasion.

The Year of Korea in France will run until the end of August 2016. The Year of France in Korea will take place from March to December 2016.

Economic relations

Korea is France’s third-largest customer in Asia and our fifth-largest global trade surplus. France is Korea’s second-largest European supplier and became its 17??-largest global supplier in 2014, rising eight places compared to 2012. It is the leading aviation supplier, the second-largest perfume and cosmetics supplier and the fourth-largest pharmaceutical supplier. Trade (€8 billion in 2014) is part of a positive momentum, with a 17% growth of French exports to Korea up to €5billion, and a positive balance for France that has increased sharply (€1.9 billion in 2014 compared to €357million in 2013). French exports to Korea, which have also benefited from the 2011 EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), doubled in ten years.

France is one of the leading investors in Korea (€7 billion in stock; the second-largest EU investor after the Netherlands; 174 French companies accounting for 24,000 jobs). South Korean investment in France remains small.

Cooperation and cultural actionOur cooperation and cultural action with the Republic of Korea is part of the Action Plan for a 21st Century Strengthened Comprehensive Partnership which was adopted during the President of the Republic’s state visit to Korea on 3-4 November 2015 and which sets out the main working areas.
It is also benefiting from the France-Korea Year 2015-2016, celebrating the 130th anniversary of bilateral relations, which must be an opportunity to give fresh impetus to our cooperation.

Academic, scientific and educational cooperation

Korea’s economic success is based on a high level of education (leading country in the OECD’s PISA assessment), major use of RD (4.2% of GDP, 2nd in the OECD) and increasing international openness (3rd country in the world for student mobility with more than 200,000 students abroad). In 2014, France was only the 8th-ranked country in terms of hosting Korean students, with 6,500 students studying in France. In 2015, however, this increased by 6%. One thousand French students now study in Korea every year, thanks to almost 400 partnerships between French and Korean higher education institutions.

The higher education forum organised during the President of the Republic’s state visit to Korea on 4 November and the six agreements signed on that occasion in the area of education and science, including the administrative arrangement for the mutual recognition of qualifications and studies, helped to show the importance we place on strengthening cooperation in the areas of education, academics, vocational training and research between our two countries.

As regards the French language, the number of Koreans studying it has fallen significantly since it has been no longer obligatory to learn a second foreign language in secondary schools. There are now about 40,000 people learning it, which is still the highest rate in north-east Asia in relation to the population. The roughly 7,000 DELF-DALF tests taken in Korea last year clearly show this.

The status recently granted to the Korean language, which can now be chosen as a second language in the baccalaureate like Japanese and Chinese, should give new momentum to our linguistic and educational cooperation.

Cultural cooperation

The aim of the Year of France in Korea in the cultural field is to focus on new talent and lesser-known aspects of French culture.

The cultural programme of the Year of France in Korea will mainly involve contemporary creation in all artistic fields, with about 100 programmes both in Seoul and other major Korean cities.

Updated: 24 February 2016



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