Event ReportsPublished on May 07, 2016
South Korea can be a good growth model for India, says Ambassador Hyun

The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Mr Cho Hyun, thinks his country can really be a good  growth model for developing India.

Delivering a lecture at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi on “Expanding dimensions of India-Republic of Korea partnership”, Mr Hyun said Korea can act as a role model for India in the area of economic development.

Pointing out democracy as a common ground between the two countries, India could thus learn from and also follow the path of economic development that led to South Koreas economic miracle, Mr Hyun said.

He said the manufacturing industry in India could grow further. Companies like Hyundai and Samsung have a towering presence in India. With over 200,000 cars exported to India and over 7,000 Indian technicians employed respectively, South Korea is a vital economic-ally for India.

Republic of Korea has been one of the major and the oldest economic partners of India, by being among the first few countries to invest in the Indian economy post its economic liberalization in the early 1990s.

The event, on April 26, 2016, was chaired by Mr Sunjoy Joshi, Director, ORF. Highlighting the deep cultural ties being shared by India and Republic of Korea since 1973, Mr Joshi said the South Korean government has put its faith in the Indian economic system and the two countries have witnessed rapid changes in their interactions in a very short time. He also highlighted that the NDA government transformed the ‘Look East’ policy to ‘Act East’ policy, thereby upgrading the bilateral partnership to a special strategic one.

During the lecture, Ambassador Hyun underlined that economic cooperation defined the relationship between the two countries. In the Maritime Summit held from the 14 to the 16 April 2016, over 50 South Korean companies were present. He said the 26 contracts amounting to over US $100 million that were finalised in the Summit are evidence to the current strong ties between the two nations. He said the relationship was going to grow from strength to strength in the future.

Mr Hyun said being a natural ally to the Republic of Korea, India must look to discover other areas to further build the relations between the two countries. Military, politics, education are few such sectors that can act as potential pillars to cement the ties of the two nations.

Mr Hyun noted that India and the Republic of Korea share an enemy at their respective borders; namely Pakistan and North Korea. The experience that India has in fighting and controlling its neighbour (the 1965 Indo-Pak war and the Kargil war), South Korea could benefit from strategic help from India.

Apart from the expanding bilateral relations, Mr Hyun mentioned the convergence of their views on several global issues such as strategic talks on climate change and maritime security. Speaking about grassroots connectivity among the two nations, the ambassador advocated for more student exchanges. Unlike the large numbers of Korean students that study in the United States, Europe and China, there are less than 300 Korean students currently studying in India. The general tourist exchange is also three times less as compared to the exchange between India and Japan.

Inspiring each other

Mr Hyun delved into the broader commonalities and differences between the two countries and how they could take inspiration from each other and work on those differences. To begin with, he praised the foreign policy of the countries as India and the Republic of Korea both have not invaded any other country. The ambitious and aspiring citizens of the countries form the common spirit that ties these countries together.

However, the Republic of Korea is a homogenous country. Unlike India, it is not a country with a diverse population. The positive of this, as pointed out by Mr  Hyun, is that the people of Korea are able to formulate a collective goal and work towards it. Due to the homogeneity, the interests of almost everyone are the same and it was because of this that they were able to oust Japan and regain their sovereignty. India, on the contrary, has a vast diversity of people resulting in the absence of a common goal.

Prof. Kesavan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF pointed out that India and South Korea had their sovereignty compromised by the British and the Japanese respectively. However, he observed the positives of Japanese rule in Korea. Further, he reiterated that after 1965, Japan extended substantial economic assistance and technological cooperation. He also noted that the homogeneity prevalent in the Korean society has acted as a deterrent in achieving tolerance.

Former Indian ambassador to Korea, Mr S.T Devare, acknowledged the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) as a positive trade development between the two countries. Adding energy as another facet to enhance the India-Korea relations, he suggested a potential nuclear and solar energy agreement between the two countries.

Expanding defence cooperation between the two countries was the final major point raised in the discussion. Talking about ensuring an Asian Security Architecture, the panellists agreed that security cooperation is the need of the hour. In the past, India had assisted South Korea in the war against North Korea and that could act as a benchmark for the two countries to improve upon the military partnership.

Concluding the discussion, Mr Sunjoy Joshi noted that the Republic of Korea has been able to work around the dynamics of the Indian economy like no other country. And the two nations have an array of factors to expand their relationship. Culture, education, military, politics, etc., are a few areas from where the process could begin. Given the historical engagement, and the current economic ties, the two countries must look to expand the definition of their bilateral relationship, Mr Joshi said.

This report was prepared by Vatsal Chandra, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation

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