India- South Korea Relations

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September 09, 2023

Why in news?

The historic Camp David Summit held in August 2023 gives India and South Korea a unique opportunity to enhance their strategic partnership.

Camp David Summit

  • Countries- It is held among the leaders of the
    • United States,
    • Japan, and the
    • Republic of Korea (ROK)
  • Need- To consult promptly with each other during crises and to coordinate responses to regional challenges, provocations and threats affecting common interests.
  • Cooperation- It committed to hold trilateral military training exercises annually and to share real-time information on North Korean missile launches by the end of 2023.
  • The countries promised to hold trilateral summits annually as well.
  • Project- They would launch supply-chain early warning system pilot project to expand information-sharing and fight economic coercion together.
  • Russia-Ukraine War- The leaders agreed to continue supporting Ukraine and to maintain strong, coordinated sanctions against Russia, while aiming to curb the dependence on Russian energy.

What is the history of India-South Korea relations?

  • Historical relation- According to the 13th century Korean historical text "SamgukYusa" or “Heritage History of the Three Kingdoms", Princess Suriratna from Ayodhya (India) came to Korea in the year 48 AD.
  • She married King Kim-Suro of the erstwhile Gaya Confederacy in ancient Korea and became Queen Heo Hwang-ok. Many Koreans trace their ancestry to this lineage.
  • Buddhism- Some scholars believe that Buddhism reached Korea via the maritime route with the arrival of Princess Suriratna and her brother Monk Jangyu.
  • Literature- Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore composed a short but evocative poem titled 'Lamp of the East’ in 1929 about Korea's glorious past and its promising bright future.
  • Political relations- India played an important role in the Korean peninsula after Korea's independence in 1945.
  • Former Indian diplomat Shri K P S Menon was the Chairman of the 9-member UN Commission set up in 1947 to hold elections in Korea.
  • In 2018, both countries issued a statement outlining a “Vision for People, Prosperity, Peace and our Future”
  • Diplomatic relations- Consular relations were established in 1962. Both established diplomatic relations on 1973.
  • Economic relations- They both formed a “Strategic Partnership” in 2010, which was elevated to “Special Strategic Partnership” in 2015.
  • Korea plus- This initiative aims to facilitate Korean investments in India.
  • Bilateral trade- In 2022, it reached record levels of 27.8 billion dollars.
  • India’s import volume stands 18.8 billion dollars, while the export volume is 9 billion dollars.
  • Defence- In 2020, India and South Korea signed a Roadmap for Defence Industries Cooperation.
  • Cultural relations- In 2011, the Indian Cultural Centre was established in Seoul to showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and promote cultural exchanges between both countries.

What is the significance of Camp David meet?

  • Regional security- It indicates a much-needed repair in South Korea and Japan relations.
  • Strengthen US alliance structure- The summit reflect the multipolar urges of the contemporary international system in East Asia along with groupings such as
    • AUKUS- U.S, United Kingdom, Australia
    • Quad -India, Japan, Australia, U.S
    • CHIP 4 Alliance- U.S., Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea
  • New strategic direction- It has the potential to set South Korea on strategic direction in Indo-Pacific with
    • Improved relations with Japan
    • More synergy with the American view on China
    • Enhance the engagement of Indo- Pacific
  • China challenge- It marks a strategic shift in Seoul’s traditional approach of not offending China at any cost.
  • QUAD grouping- This summit mooted the South Korea’s keen desire to join the group, it might apply for a membership in Quad Plus in 2024.
  • New foreign policy- The main goal is to make South Korea a “global pivotal state”.

How the summit would strengthen India-Korea relations?

  • Natural partner- Korea is a natural partner for India in Indo-Pacific. It is due to number of reasons.
    • South Korea’s location in the Indo-Pacific, close to China.
    • It is a U.S. ally provides India with a like-minded strategic partner.
    • For both, the rise of China and its unilateral attempts at reordering the Asian security architecture are of great concern.
  • Regional partner- For India, Seoul can be an important regional partner at a time when India is closer to the U.S. and is concerned about Chinese intentions and power like never before in history.
  • Enhance the relation - It provides a unique opportunity for India and ROK to enhance their strategic partnership in the 50th year of their diplomatic relationship.
  • Diplomatic relations- The partnership could also benefit from reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Yoon to each other’s country.

What lies ahead?

  • Political cooperation- The two sides should consider establishing an annual summit at the level of
    • Foreign Ministers Meet
    • 2+2 format dialogue

India currently has 2+2 dialogues with the U.S., Japan, Australia and Russia.

  • Foster technology- Both could explore the possibility of negotiating a South Korea-Japan-India-U.S. initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), along the lines of the recently-concluded India-U.S. iCET.
  • Defence -South Korea’s willingness and ability to cater to India’s defence needs within the ambit of India’s ‘Make in India’ programme must be utilised.
    • Example-The K9 Vajra, a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer, built by L&T with technology from South Korea’s Hanwha Defense
    • South Korean-built K2 Black Panther tanks could also be co-produced in India for the Indian Army or third countries.
  • Nuclear energy- Given Seoul’s remarkable track record in supplying cheaper and faster nuclear reactors India could consider purchasing Korean-built reactors so as to expand the share of nuclear energy in the country’s energy basket.



  1. The Hindu- Finding Seoul in Indo-Pacific
  2. Ministry of External affairs- Republic of Korea relation
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