About Us India - RoK Bilateral

Brief on India – Republic of Korea Bilateral Relations


1. India-Republic of Korea (RoK) relations has made great strides in recent years and has become truly multidimensional, spurred by a significant convergence of interests, mutual goodwill and high level exchanges. Bilateral consular relations were established in 1962 which was upgraded to Ambassador-level in 1973. In course of time, RoK's open market policies found resonance with India's economic liberalization and 'Look East Policy' as well as “Act East Policy”. Consistent Indian support for peaceful reunification of the two Koreas has been well received in this country.

2. According to "SamgukYusa" or "The Heritage History of the Three Kingdoms" written in the 13th century, a Princess from Ayodhya (Suriratna) came to Korea, married King Kim-Suro, and became Queen Hur Hwang-ok in the year 48 AD [wife of former President Lee Myung-bak (Mrs. Kim Yoon-ok), former President Kim Dae-jung, former President Kim Young-sam and former PM Kim Jong-pil, inter alia, trace their ancestry to the royal couple]. Korean Buddhist Monk Hyecho (704–787 CE) or Hong Jiao visited India from 723 to 729 AD and wrote travelogue "Pilgrimage to the five kingdoms of India" which gives a vivid account of Indian culture, politics & society. The travelogue was rediscovered in China in 1908 and was subsequently translated into different languages, including Hindi, under the aegis of UNESCO. The original fragment is now owned by the National Library of France. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore also composed a short but evocative poem – 'Lamp of the East' - in 1929 about Korea's glorious past and its promising bright future. He wrote:

"In the golden age of Asia

Korea was one of its lamp bearers,

And that lamp is waiting to be lit once again

For the illumination of the East."

3. India played an important and positive role in Korean affairs after Korea's independence in 1945. Mr K P S Menon of India was the Chairman of the 9-member UN Commission set up in 1947 to hold elections in Korea. During the Korean War (1950-53), both the warring sides accepted a resolution sponsored by India, and the ceasefire was declared on 27 July 1953. Lt. General K.S. Thimayya of India, served as the chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission [NNRC], after the armistice and contributed to resolving the humanitarian issues arising out of the War, which won appreciation from all quarters. A delegation of Indian Parliamentarians visited ROK on 26-27 July 2013 to participate in the events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement.

High Level Exchanges

4. The State Visit to RoK by President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, in February 2006 heralded a new vibrant phase in India-RoK relations. It, inter alia, led to the launch of a Joint Task Force to conclude a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which was operationalized on 1st January 2010. President Lee paid a landmark visit to India, as Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2010, when bilateral ties were raised to the level of Strategic Partnership. It was followed by President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil's State Visit to RoK from 24-27 July 2011 when the Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement was signed. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to Seoul on 24-27 March 2012 for both bilateral and Nuclear Security Summit when visa simplification agreement was signed. Traditionally close bilateral relations were elevated to a qualitative higher level, with the state visit to India of President Park Geun-hye from 15-18 January 2014. The ‘Joint Statement for Expansion of Strategic Partnership’ issued during the visit, unveiled a blue print for further expanding the political, security, defence, economic, scientific & technological, IT, cultural and people-to-people relations.

5. EAM paid an official visit to South Korea from 28 to 30 December 2014, and co-chaired the 8th session of India-ROK Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) with her counterpart Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Korea during 18-19 May 2015, taking place within the first year of his government. During the visit the bilateral relationship was upgraded to ‘special strategic partnership’. In the ‘Joint Statement for Special Strategic Partnership’ PM and President Park Geun-hye agreed to establish a 2+2 consultation mechanism at Secretary/Vice Minister of Foreign Office and Defence Ministry.

6. The high level interaction continued with the visit of Mr. Manohar Parrikar in April 2015 to co-chair Defence Ministerial meeting with his Korean Counterpart Gen Han Min-Koo, Ms. Smriti Zubin Irani, Minister for Human Resource Development from 18 to 22 May 2015, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu from 9 to 12 September 2015 and Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan on 6 November 2015, to co-Chair the 3rd India-Korea Science & Technology Steering Committee Meeting.

7. Foreign Secretary visited Seoul on 17 May 2016 for bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Mr. Yun Byung-se and Senior Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the President and First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam. Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, accompanied by Supreme Court judges visited South Korea from 15 to 18 May 2016 to attend Incheon Trade Law Forum.

8. PM Modi and President Park had bilateral meetings on the sidelines of East Asia Summit on 8 September 2016 at Vientiane, Laos and discussed progress made in the bilateral relations. Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker of the Lok Sabha accompanied by five Members of Parliament visited South Korea from 28 September to 2 October 2016.

9. From ROK side, Korean Deputy NSA Kim Kyou-hyun visited India in March 2015, National Assembly Speaker Mr. Chung Ui-hwa, visited India from 8-10 May 2015, Mr. Je Jeong-boo, Minister of Government Legislation, visited India during 9-11 September 2015, Mr. Chang Myoung-jin, Minister of the Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), ROK visited Goa on 27 March 2016 to co-Chair the Joint Committee Meeting with Department of Defence Production and to participate at the Defence Expo India 2016. RoK also participated as the sole country at the Maritime India Summit 2016 held in Mumbai from 14-16 April 2016.

10. In 2017, Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam visited India on 27-29 March to review bilateral relations and Minister for Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) visited India on 22 April to conclude an MoU on cooperation in shipbuilding agreed during the visit of PM Modi to South Korea.

11. The relationship witnessed new momentum following the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in’s administration. PM Modi was the 4th international leader to congratulate President Moon on his election victory. In his addition, PM Modi’s congratulatory tweet in Korean language was well appreciated by President Moon, Korean media and common people. President Moon reciprocated by sending Mr. Chung Dongchea, former culture minister, as his special envoy to India, first such instance in the bilateral relationship, and through subsequent announcement to upgrade the relationship with India equivalent to four traditional partners under the “New Asia Community Plus” framework. In parallel, timely visit of Finance and Defense Minister Arun Jaitley from 14 to 16 June 2017 provided an opportunity to conclude the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), an MoU between EXIM banks of two countries and review ongoing defence relationship between the two countries in addition to meeting the new leadership. This was followed by a bilateral meeting between PM Modi and President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of G-20 Summit in Hamburg on 8 July 2017.

12. Initial contacts were further strengthened during the visit of Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu for the 3rdJoint Ministerial Review of the India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) from 21-23 September 2017, during which both sides agreed to conclude an Early harvest Agreement at an early date. Similarly, the visit of Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government Park won-soon to India from 7 to 10 November and his discussions with Minister of Urban Development, Chief Minister of Delhi, Lt. Governor of Delhi and Chairman of New Delhi Municipal Corporation on cooperation in smart cities and urban development; Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun from 23 to 24 November 2017 to participate at the 5th Global Conference on Cyber Space jointly organised by Ministry of Electronics and IT and MEA and Speaker of National Assembly Chung Sye-kyun on invitation of Speaker of Lok Sabha from 7 to 10 March from Korean side further strengthened the relationship.

13. In line with President’s New Southern Policy, Korean National Diplomatic Academy inaugurated a new Centre for ASEAN and India studies at its institute on 1 February with an aim to expand research and studies on ASEAN and India.

14. Recently, President Moon Jae-in paid a state visit to India from July 8-11, 2018 on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the visit, both countries discussed wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues and issued a vision statement outlining shared vision for people, prosperity, peace and future. Reiterating their support to conclude the ongoing upgradation of comprehensive economic partnership agreement signed in 2010, both leaders welcomed the conclusion of Early Harvest Agreement and committed to achieve USD 50 billion in trade volume by 2030. In addition, both leaders discussed possible synergies between India’s Act East Policy and S. Korea’s New Southern Policy, Indo-Pacific strategy, cooperation in defense industry and future technologies. Both countries concluded 11 MoUs/Agreements from Queen Suriratna Memorial Project to ICT & biotechnology were signed during the visit. As a special gesture, PM Modi accompanied President Moon on his visit to Gandhi Smriti and inauguration of Samsung mobile plant in Noida and rode Delhi Metro together for the inauguration event deviating from established protocol.

15. Continuing the momentum generated during the state visit, President Moon Jae-in announced constitution of special New Southern Economic Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. Kim Hyun-chul, Special Adviser to the President for Economic Affairs with an aim to expand economic, political and security relationship between RoK and India and ASEAN countries.

16. As a follow up to the Mayor of Seoul’s visit to Delhi, Chief Minister of Delhi Mr Arvind Kejriwal visited Seoul from 12 to 15 September and discussed cooperation between Seoul and New Delhi and concluded a sister city agreement. First Lady of RoK H.E. Ms. Kim Jung-sook visited India from November 4-7, on PM Modi’s invitation as a Guest of Honor for the ‘Dipotsav’ Festival and participated at the ground breaking ceremony for construction of new memorial for Queen Suriratna at Ayodhya. In addition, Deputy NSA Pankaj Saran visited RoK in October 2018 for 2nd NSCS Dialogue and FM Kang Kyung-wha visited India on 19 December 2018 and co-Chaired the 9th session of the India-RoK Joint commission Meeting in New Delhi.

17. PM Narendra Modi paid a state visit to S. Korea from 21 to 22 february 2019 at the invitation of President Moon jae-in, during which both sides held wide ranging discussions on defense , economic, culture and science cooperation. Both the leaders unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi. PM Modi also gifted a Bodhi sapling to Gimhae City and received the Seoul Peace Prize 2018. Six MOUs were signed on start-ups, joint issue of postal stamp, combating trans-border and international crime, trade facilitation, roadways and media. PM Modi and President Moon met again on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka, Japan on 28 June 2019 and exchanged opinions on diverse fields including economic and defense industry cooperation as well as people -to-people exchanges.

18. Three members of the India-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group led by Chairman Song Young-gil visited India on July 3-6 and met with Mr Harivansh Narayan Singh, Deputy Speaker of Rajya Sabha, and MOS of Civil Aviation Mr Hardeep Singh Puri.

Economic Relations

19. Trade and economic relations have started to gather momentum again following the implementation of CEPA in 2010 and the bilateral trade in 2011 crossed USD 20.5 billion registering a 70% growth over a two-year period. A revised trade target of USD 40 billion by 2015 was set by PM Singh and President Lee on 25 March 2012. However, bilateral trade has since declined to USD 18 billion in 2014-15, USD 16.27 billion in 2015-16, USD 15.78 billion in 2016-17 before recovering strongly to USD 20.005 billion in 2017 and $ 21.494 in 2018. In 2018, exports from India accounted $ 5.884 billion, registering a growth of 18.8% and exports from ROK accounted for $ 15.610 billion registering a growth of 3.6%.

20. Major items of India’s exports to Korea are mineral fuels/oil distillates (mainly naphtha), cereals, iron and steel. On the other hand, Korea’s main export items are automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, nuclear reactors, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery & parts and iron and steel products.

21. Prime Minister’s visit led to a positive focus on India, with shipbuilding, automobile, electronics, textiles, food processing and manufacture being sectors of particular interest. Following that, revision of India-ROK Bilateral Air Services Agreement in October 2015, tripling the number of flight connections to 19 per week and organisation of the 1st India-Korea Business Summit, jointly by Chosun Group, Korea’s leading media group, and CII in New Delhi from 14-16 January 2016 created a conducive environment for trade and businesses between the two countries. The leadership from the top Korean conglomerates as well as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Vice Minister for Trade, Industry & Energy attended the summit meeting, which also included an exclusive round table meeting with the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

22. India and South Korea launched an initiative ‘Korea Plus’, as proposed by Prime Minister Modi in June 2016 in India to promote and facilitate Korean Investments in India. To give it much wider outreach and publicity, Embassy of India organized a ‘Korea Plus’ event to introduce the initiative to Korean businessmen and investors in South Korea in November 2016.

23. The visit of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to South Korea from 14 to 17 June to co-Chair the 5th India-Korea Financial Dialogue also resulted in signing of the agreements to establish USD 9 billion in concessional credit and USD 1 billion in ODA funding for infrastructure development projects in India. Further the visit of Minister of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari from 9 to 12 April 2018 explored cooperation in port development and maritime cooperation, integrated transportation systems and water body rejuvenation projects especially ‘Clean Ganga’ project. In addition, senior officials from the newly established Logistics Division of Ministry of Commerce visited Korea from 11 to 16 March to understand Korea’s Logistics and e-trade facilitation systems in connection with proposed Integrated Trade Facilitation e-Platform to be created by India.

24. As a curtain raiser to the forthcoming visit of President Moon Jae-in to India and to explore investment opportunities in India, Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with Chosun Ilbo and CII organised the 2nd India-Korea Business Summit in New Delhi on 27 February 2018. The event, inaugurated by, PM Modi was attended by ministers, lawmakers, conglomerates and businessmen from both countries.

25. Realising huge potential for cooperation, Indian states too have evinced interest in attracting Korean FDI. Delegation from various state governments periodically visits South Korea and outlines business opportunities and incentives offered by state government for prospective Korean investors. In 2017 and 2018, Minister of Industries of Telengana, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and Ministerial delegations from West Bengal and Assam visited South Korea exploring business ties and Korean investments in their respective states.

26. Major Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai Motors and LG have made significant investments into India, estimated at over $5.71 billion(September 2018) . In 2017, Kia motors, a sister company of Hyundai Group, announced an investment of USD 1.1 billion to set up a manufacturing unit in Andhra Pradesh and Samsung Electronics announced a USD 760 million investment to expand production facilities in India. Recently in November 2018, Hyundai Motors announced an investment of $ 900 million in its Chennai plant and expected to sign the MoU in early 2019. In total, there are more than 603 large and small Korean firms operating in India. On the other hand, Indian investments in RoK stands at $ 3 billion. Novelis, a Hindalco subsidiary, acquired a Korean aluminium company by investing about $600 million (their total investment in RoK is nearing $2 billion now). Mahindra & Mahindra acquired a majority stake in SsangYong Motors, the country's 4th largest auto manufacturer, in March 2011, with an investment of about $360 million. Tata Motors acquired Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company for $102 million in March 2004. Other Indian companies present in India include IT majors, Indian Overseas Bank etc.The State Bank of India opened a branch in Seoul on 13 Jan 2016 to provide wide range of services including loan services and project financing for Korean and Indian companies.

27. The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Korea comprising Indian and Korean companies play a constructive role in promoting trade and investments linkages between the two countries and assist Embassy in organising seminars and events on business promotions.

Cultural Relations

28. To further enhance cultural exchanges between India and Korea, an Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) was established in Seoul in April 2011. Another Culture Centre was established in Busan in December 2013 on Public Private Partnership mode. A bust of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was unveiled in Seoul by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar in May 2011.

29. As a gesture of friendship and goodwill to the Korean people, Prime Minister of India gifted a sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment. The sapling was handed over by the Ambassador to ROK Forest Minister Shin Won-sop, at a formal ceremony at Korea’s National Arboretum on 19 Mar 2014.A bust of Mahatma Gandhi, presented by ICCR, was unveiled at the Hongbeop-sa temple in Busan on 21 July 2014.

30. ICC in Seoul and Busan offers regular classes on yoga and dance, both contemporary and classical for promotion of Indian culture. Classes on Hindi, Tabla and cooking have also been started with local teachers as part of outreach activities. Lectures, exhibitions and performances are arranged periodically by ICC. An annual festival of India in Korea titled SARANG has been organised by the Embassy since 2015, showcasing diverse Indian culture and art forms in various parts of South Korea.

31. Various institutional arrangements between organisations and entities continue to promote people-to-people exchanges. This includes MoU between FSI and Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA) signed in March 2012, JNU’s MoUs with Yonsei University, Korea University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) and Busan University of Foreign Studies. DU also has signed an MoU with Korea University. In addition, HUFS in Seoul, and Busan University of Foreign Studies have Indian Studies Departments and JNU &DU offer programmes in Korea Studies and Korean Language Courses respectively. Madras University has also opened a Department of Korean Studies encouraged by the sizeable presence of Koreans including Hyundai Motors in Tamil Nadu. Further Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ) started offering five-year integrated postgraduate degrees in Korean language. Manipur University and Madras Christian College are offering Diploma courses in Korean Language.

32. In 2012 Seoul National University established a New Department of Asian Languages and 4 Civilizations wherein they are offering a major on Indian Studies. Various other Universities in Korea offer degree courses in Indian Philosophy, Yoga and Ayurveda.

33. Seoul Forum for International Affairs and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations have been jointly organizing the India-Korea Dialogue that makes recommendations on policies and practical measures to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries. Seventeen rounds of Dialogue have been held till date, with the last one held in Seoul in November 2018. Ananta Aspen Centre co-hosted the 17th round of Dialogue from Indian side.

34. The Institute for Indian Studies Korea (IISK) was established at Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on 3 December 2013, which brings together large number of Korean academics, economists and business representatives. 'India Fortune' has been organizing 'India Advanced Management Programme' for MPs, senior Korean officials, and CEOs covering Indian economy, corporate environment and Indian culture. The participants are always taken to India on a familiarization tour. This is a private business promotion initiative by a Korean scholar Dr. Oh Hwaseok.

35. Exchange of youth delegations between India and RoK has been taking place on an annual basis for several years now. Government of India offers scholarships and fellowships to Korean nationals for various programmes and disciplines covering research work and non-formal courses every year to study in India. Ayush Scholarship Scheme facilitates courses in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga and Homeopathy, while Hindi language scholarship is being offered by the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Agra. RoK Government also offers scholarships to Indian nationals each year to study Korean Language and Literature at Masters and PhD level at select Korean Universities.

36. Good air connectivity between the two countries has been established with Air India, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air operating flights. The bilateral civil aviation agreement of 1994 was finally revised in November 2015 increasing weekly flights between the two countries to 19, which resulted in new operations by Korean Airlines which started direct flights to Delhi. In 2018, a total of 34627 visas were issued by the Mission as compared to 40,014 in 2017 , 49180 in 2016, 46,118 in 2015, 52,052 in 2014, 70,713 visas in 2013 and 79,028 in 2012. The decline in number of visas issued by the Mission is mainly due to issuance of E visas for Koreans (which is not accounted by Mission) as also issuance of large number of long-term multiple entry visas to facilitate business exchanges. In February 2016, Korean Air reached a code-sharing agreement with Jet Airways covering six international routes such as those linking New Delhi with Bangkok. Further, as part of our effort to promote tourism and greater people-to-people exchanges, Government of India announced Visa on Arrival facility to Korean nationals during the recent visit of President Moon Jae-in to India and the same will come into effect from 1 October 2018.

Indian community

37. The total number of Indian nationals living in ROK is estimated to be around 12,000, which includes 300 PIOs. A large number of Indian scholars are pursuing post-graduate and Ph. D programmes, mostly in pure sciences in Korea. During the past few years, many professionals mainly in the areas of IT, shipping and automobile have immigrated to ROK. They are working mostly with Samsung, LG, Hyundai TATA Daewoo and TCS. There is also significant number of students and academicians in the universities.

38. With the aim of bringing the Indians into closer coordination, the Mission brought various Indian Associations in ROK onto a common platform as part of a Coordination Committee. The Committee has proved to be an effective platform for dissemination of information and coordinating cultural events/activities. Prominent associations of expatriate Indians in RoK include the Annapurna Indian Women's Association (AIWA), Indians in Korea (IIK) - comprising mostly of professionals, Indian Student Association in Korea and Indian Merchants' Association (IMA). The Associations function under the aegis of the Mission and undertake various cultural as well as social activities every year including organizing Holi and Diwali functions which provide the community an opportunity to socialize with other members and stay in touch with Indian culture.


28 July 2019