Relations with the Republic of Korea
NATO and the Republic of Korea work together bilaterally on a number of shared security challenges, which include cyber defence, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism. They also cooperate as part of NATO’s broader relations with its partners in the Indo-Pacific region. The Republic of Korea and NATO are committed to enhancing political dialogue and practical cooperation in order to uphold and strengthen the rules-based international order.
- NATO and the Republic of Korea have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation since 2005.
- From 2012, cooperation between NATO and the Republic of Korea was taken forward through an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. Currently, the cooperation is guided by an Individually Tailored Partnership Programme that NATO and the Republic of Korea agreed in July 2023.
- In November 2022, the Republic of Korea established a Diplomatic Mission to NATO, enhancing opportunities for political dialogue with the Alliance.
- Political dialogue and practical cooperation are being developed across priority areas, including non-proliferation, cyber defence, science and technology, counter-terrorism, interoperability, and defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents.
- The Republic of Korea is one NATO’s partners in the Indo-Pacific region, together with Australia, Japan and New Zealand. The Indo-Pacific region is important for the Alliance, given that developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security.
Key areas of cooperation
The Republic of Korea’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and covers many common security challenges, including:
- Cyber defence: Since 2021, the Republic of Korea has participated in NATO’s annual cyber defence exercise Locked Shields. It also works together with the Alliance at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia and is a participant in NATO’s Malware Information Sharing Platform (MISP), a threat-sharing defence initiative.
- New technologies: NATO and the Republic of Korea are enhancing their cooperation in the area of emerging and disruptive technologies through the country’s participation in NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, focusing on activities in the fields of advanced technologies, counter-terrorism, and defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. Scientists in the Republic of Korea participated in DEXTER (short for Detection of EXplosives and firearms to counter TERrorism), a key SPS project that aimed to develop an integrated and affordable sensor-fusion system able to detect explosives and firearms in public places without disrupting the flow of pedestrians. Through other ongoing multi-year SPS projects, experts from the Republic of Korea are developing highly sensitive sensors for the detection of pathogens and nerve agents, and are working on the creation of passive bio-inspired atmospheric floating vehicles (used in swarm), to be used for the characterisation of hazardous emissions from human-made or natural catastrophes.
- Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation: NATO and the Republic of Korea cooperate in the area of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, including the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The Allies fully support the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Allies have repeatedly expressed their strong condemnation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) provocative rhetoric and actions, including nuclear activity and ballistic missile tests that violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability. The Republic of Korea has also participated regularly in NATO’s Annual Conference on Arms Control, Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation.
- Interoperability: Since 2014, under the Partnership Interoperability Initiative, the Republic of Korea has been participating in the Interoperability Platform, which brings Allies together with selected partners that are active contributors to NATO’s operations. The Republic of Korea is interested in improving mutual understanding and interoperability through exchanges of civilian and military personnel, participation in education, joint training and exercises, and cooperation in the field of standardization and logistics.
- At the 2021 NATO Summit in Brussels, Allies agreed to increase dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and existing partners, including the Republic of Korea as one of the partners in the Indo-Pacific region. This commitment was reiterated in the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept, the Alliance’s core policy document. Cooperation with partners in this region is key to addressing the increasingly complex global security environment, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, the shift in the global balance of power and the rise of China, and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
- In June 2022, the President of the Republic of Korea participated in the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, together with the Leaders of other partners from the Indo-Pacific region (Australia, Japan and New Zealand). This was the first-ever participation of the Republic of Korea in a NATO summit. In July 2023, the country participated in its second meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government, at the 2023 Vilnius Summit.
- In April 2022 and April 2023, the Republic of Korea participated in NATO Foreign Ministers’ meetings. This followed the country’s first-ever participation in a NATO ministerial meeting, in December 2020.
- The Republic of Korea also regularly participates in meetings at NATO Headquarters between NATO Allies and the four partners in the Indo-Pacific region at the level of Ambassadors. Recent meetings have focused on climate change and security, arms control, and maritime security.
Support for NATO-led operations and missions
- From 2010 to 2013, as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea led an integrated civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Team 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. The Republic of Korea also contributed a total of USD 319 million to the NATO-run Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund. In 2020, the Republic of Korea served as the ANA Trust Fund’s co-chair.
- Cooperating with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the naval forces of the Republic of Korea also provided escorts to merchant vessels passing through the waters off the Horn of Africa.