Press statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and President Yoon following the EU-Republic of Korea Summit

Dear President Yoon,

Thank you for hosting us here in Korea today. The Republic of Korea is most definitely one of our oldest and closest partners, one we trust and we count on. This year marks, indeed, an important milestone for us – the 60th anniversary of our bilateral relations. It is quite amazing to think back to 1963. The predecessor of the European Union, the so-called European Economic Community, had just been established barely six years earlier. Korea had emerged barely ten years earlier from war. Nevertheless, the partnership has developed and blossomed to become one of the deepest and richest we have, elevated to the rank of Strategic Partnership in 2010. And it is completed with one of the most significant Free Trade Agreements ever signed by the European Union only one year later. One that has delivered fantastically for both sides.

I mention this because the investment we have both made in this relationship has never been more important and valuable than today, in a world profoundly shaken by Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, Russia's blatant violation of the UN Charter and the international law. You condemned this war of aggression from the start. You are coordinating tough sanctions against the Russian economy of war with us and other international partners. And you are channelling much-needed financial and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and its people. It is all to your credit. And it shows, once again, the strength of our bond. Two democracies sharing the same values and a friendship that defies the geographic distance. This is best shown by our people who have a long-standing and rich tradition of exchanges, especially through business, education and culture. Trade figures testify to the dense nature of our relations with an increase by more than 110% thanks to our Free Trade Agreement. A real success that we continue to develop.

Today, we came together to reflect on the future of our partnership. How to capitalise even more on that special bond we share? Part of the answer lies in the discussions we have had at the G7 Summit. Democracies like ours must get better at navigating geopolitical and economic shocks, together. We need to ensure our economic security while remaining open and promoting a healthy competition among ourselves. So today, we launched a number of joint initiatives to do just that.

First, we launched our Green Partnership. We will work on the convergence of our regulations on carbon pricing, on deforestation, on plastic products, and explore joint projects in the fields of renewables, energy efficiency and the hydrogen economy. Second, we are launching negotiations for Korea's accession to Horizon Europe, the EU's research programme – and the largest in the world. We will get our brilliant minds to work together on the technologies of tomorrow. Third, we are signing an arrangement on health emergency preparedness and response. This is also about sharing crucial information about the situation of supply chains. And fourth, we are pushing ahead with the Digital Partnership we agreed last autumn, by getting our teams to work on AI, for example, High Performance Computing and, in particular, semiconductors. I want to highlight here that the EU Chips Act can be a major boon for Korean investments in semiconductor manufacturing. And finally, we should be able to start negotiations on a digital trade rules agreement still this year. So, that is for our partnership in strategic economic sectors. We have also agreed to step up our cooperation on security and defence. We will launch a Strategic Dialogue extending to crisis management, maritime security, cybersecurity or counterterrorism, to name a few.

And finally, I want to talk about the broader Indo-Pacific region. I want to reiterate in particular the EU's full solidarity with you in the face of the constant nuclear threat from the DPRK. The European Union will never accept the DPRK's possession of nuclear weapons as a normal state of affairs. And, just like we do not accept Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, we condemn the DPRK's constant nuclear sabre-rattling. We stand firmly by the Republic of Korea. Finally, we share much aligned visions for the future of this region overall. So we want to work with the Republic of Korea on a positive agenda for the Indo-Pacific. We propose to do this under our Global Gateway investment strategy. Global Gateway is already at work in the region, with an investment package for ASEAN countries.

But we can do more. There are a number of projects with great potential for the region. We discussed transport corridors in Central Asia, digitalisation in Vietnam, forestry in Mongolia – there are many opportunities for cooperation. I hope that we can get them off the ground as soon as possible and show to our people that democracies can deliver – and they deliver best. And indeed, one only has to look at the phenomenal success of the Republic of Korea to prove this point. And this despite living under the constant shadow of conflict, on a Peninsula that suffers from division into North and South. As a German citizen, I know what it means to live in a country long divided between East and West. I want to say to you: You will prevail. The future will ultimately bring a peaceful unification. Because the longing for freedom is ultimately always stronger than the power of any dictator.

So thank you again for your very warm welcome. I look forward to seeing you at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September, and at our Summit in Brussels next year.