Relations with the Republic of Korea

  • Last updated: 06 Oct. 2016 17:16

The Republic of Korea is one of NATO’s “partners across the globe”. Building on dialogue and cooperation that has been developed since 2005, relations were deepened with the signature of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme in September 2012. Stabilising Afghanistan has been an important focus of cooperation in recent years, notably with the deployment by the Republic of Korea of a large contingent to support the NATO-led operation there.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Yun Byung-se

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se of the Republic of Korea (October 2016)

NATO is developing relations with a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, which share similar strategic concerns and key Alliance values. The Alliance’s Strategic Concept, adopted at the 2010 Lisbon Summit, paved the way for a more flexible partnership policy offering all partners the same basis of cooperation and dialogue. The establishment of a single Partnership Cooperation Menu open to all NATO partners enabled the Republic of Korea to access a wide range of cooperation activities with the Alliance and to formalise its relations with NATO through the development of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme tailored to the country’s interests.

The new partnership programme approved in September 2012 promotes political dialogue and practical cooperation in a number of joint priority areas, including response to terrorism, multinational peace-support operations and enhancing interoperability, as well as cooperation under NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme.

Practical cooperation

The Republic of Korea is a significant contributor to stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2013, the country led an integrated civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) of some 470 personnel in Parwan Province, which helped build the capacity of the provincial government in the areas of health, education, rural development and governance. As part of the process of transitioning responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan lead, the PRT was phased out and its responsibilities handed over to Afghan authorities. Much of the Korean contingent was reinvested in Bagram, instead of being withdrawn.

At the meeting of the foreign ministers of ISAF contributing nations in April 2011, the Republic of Korea announced its plan to contribute a generous US$ 500 million over five years to support the development of the Afghan National Security Forces and the socio-economic development of Afghanistan. Under this commitment, some US$75 million has been donated to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund between 2011 and 2012.

Cooperating with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the naval forces of the Republic of Korea have provided escorts to merchant vessels passing through the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Political dialogue

NATO and the Republic of Korea initiated dialogue in 2005. At that time, the then Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon addressed the North Atlantic Council. Since then, relations have evolved through regular high-level dialogue with the Republic of Korea’s authorities.

In November 2012, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Dirk Brengelmann travelled to Seoul to hold the fifth round of annual high-level staff talks with the foreign ministry, which focused on taking forward the implementation of the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme.

In April 2013, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen paid a three-day visit to the Republic of Korea, for talks with President Park Guen-hye and key members of her government to explore opportunities for expanding cooperation. During his trip, the Secretary General reiterated NATO’s strong condemnation of North Korea’s provocative rhetoric and actions, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability, and ended his trip with a short visit to the Demilitarized Zone.