In the area of security relations, the Strategic Partnership has supported a boost in cooperation in the case of some EU member states. But, overall and across the board, there is scope for further development of security relations. There have been some arms sales and some joint work in areas such as cybersecurity, but the relationship between EU member states and South Korea is far from reaching its full potential. Also, NATO could serve as a platform for closer security relations.
Focusing on bilateral relations and North Korea, there is support for a common EU position towards Pyongyang based on the existing ‘critical engagement approach’. This means that there is support for the use of multilateral and EU sanctions on the North Korean regime. But, crucially, there is also general support for inter- Korean engagement among EU member states. This is seen as beneficial for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. On the issue of North Korea, there are also differences between EU member states with a diplomatic presence in Pyongyang and those without one. For the former, this presence reflects long-standing relations with North Korea and a deeper commitment to Korean Peninsula politics.
In terms of cultural relations, people-to-people links have become stronger in recent years. Korean studies are fairly underdeveloped across EU member states, but they are becoming more popular. In some cases, the popularity of K-pop is serving to boost cultural links. In this respect, the role of young people on both sides is important, since they are driving cultural and educational exchanges. Another important factor are South Korean tourism flows into Europe. For several member states, South Koreans are the largest or second largest group of tourists coming from Asia.
Overall, EU member states seek stronger coordination and links with South Korea. This applies at the bilateral, EU and multilateral levels. In the case of the Visegrad Group or V4, this is also the case through this platform. However, at present, links seem to be stronger at the bilateral level than at any of the other levels. Since South
Korea is considered a ‘like-minded partner’ with which there are no political or economic problems, there is potential to develop mutually beneficial deeper links.