President Nguyen Xuan Phuc is paying a state visit to the Republic of Korea (RoK) from December 4-6 at the invitation of President Yoon Suk Yeol. The visit is evidence of the effective and substantive comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the RoK.

This is the first visit to the RoK by President Nguyen Xuan Phuc as Vietnam’s head of state and is also the first visit by a Vietnamese President in 11 years (the last being President Truong Tan Sang’s visit in 2011).

After 30 years of diplomatic ties, the bilateral relationship has seen great strides and recorded many important achievements in all areas of cooperation.

Deepening partnership

After establishing diplomatic relations on December 22, 1992, Vietnam and the RoK have worked incessantly to elevate the bilateral relationship, to a comprehensive partnership in the 21st century in 2001 and strategic cooperative partnership in 2009.

The Vietnam-RoK relationship has been growing rapidly and effectively, with extensive cooperation enhanced in all fields, including politics-diplomacy, security-defence, the economy, culture and education, on both the bilateral and multilateral foundations.

In addition to history and culture, Vietnam and the RoK share many similarities in the economic development process. Vietnam’s rapid economic growth period spurred by the Doi Moi policy and the RoK’s rapid economic growth period known as “the miracle on the Han River” in the latter half of the 20th century have brought about substantial development achievements in the two countries.

Over the past 30 years, overcoming the ups and downs of the world and regional situations, the Vietnam-RoK relationship has constantly developed, becoming a typical example of the good friendship between the two East Asian countries and successful cooperation throughout the region.

In the context of the complicated international situation, the two countries maintain close cooperation with high political trust.

The exchange of delegations, high-level contacts and cooperation, exchanges at all levels, and channels, are constantly being enhanced and expanded. Ministries, branches and localities of the two countries periodically implement dialogue and cooperation mechanisms, to exchange problems that aim to solve together, propose cooperation initiatives, and contribute to promoting the development of the overall relationship of Vietnam - RoK.

The RoK affirmed its importance of the strategic cooperative partnership with Vietnam and the strategic partnership with ASEAN; ready to cooperate with Vietnam in the fields that the RoK has strengths and Vietnam has needs, such as digital transformation, cybersecurity, biotechnology, education and training, contributing to promoting the increasingly strong and comprehensive development of bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) meets with the RoK's Foreign Minister Park Jin. (Photo: Tran Hai)

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) meets with the RoK's Foreign Minister Park Jin. (Photo: Tran Hai)

The relationship between the National Assembly of the two countries has been continuously strengthened and developed, making an important contribution to the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea. The two sides actively cooperated at multilateral parliamentary forums, such as the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF).

The two countries maintain many strategic dialogue mechanisms on politics, security and defence, signed memorandums of understanding on confidentiality, information security, military information security, and the joint vision statement on defence cooperation through 2030.

The judicial cooperation between the Vietnamese Courts and the RoK Courts has also been promoted since 2002, notably the capacity-building project of the Court Academy. The two governments are promoting negotiations for signing an Agreement on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial fields, to ensure legitimate interests and create conditions for citizens of each country to feel secure, to live and work in that country.

Vietnam and the RoK have carried out a cooperation agreement on high technology, which was signed by the Management Board of Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park and Chungnam Techno Park (the RoK), inaugurated the Vietnam – Korea Technology Incubator in Can Tho city and is implementing the Vietnam - Korea Institute of Science and Technology (V-KIST).

Regarding education, the two countries signed many cooperation agreements, especially the Cultural Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in arts, sports and tourism.

The RoK established the Korean Cultural Centre in Hanoi in 2006, signed an agreement on piloting Korean language teaching at the high school level, and transferred the maritime training ships to Vietnam Maritime University.

Vietnam has also piloted the application of the general education programme of Korean, as the first foreign language, for the 10-grade system, since February 2021.

“In the near future, the RoK and Vietnam will continue to focus on strengthening people-to-people exchanges and cultural cooperation, through exchanges and interactions among the younger generations and people-to-people diplomacy on a digital platform”.
The RoK Foreign Minister Park Jin

According to statistics by the RoK Immigration Service, more than 216,000 Vietnamese are living in the RoK, including more than 37,000 workers under the RoK’s Employment Permit System (EPS), nearly 2,000 technical workers, over 14,000 students, and more than 35,000 trainees and PhD students.

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc meets with representatives of the RoK organisations living and working in Vietnam. (Credit: Thong Nhat/VNA)

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc meets with representatives of the RoK organisations living and working in Vietnam. (Credit: Thong Nhat/VNA)

In Vietnam, the Korean community also has more than 180,000 people, most of whom are businessmen. The two sides have regularly organised cultural exchange activities in each country, contributing to enhancing understanding and trust and connecting the two peoples.

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc meets with representatives of the RoK organisations living and working in Vietnam. (Photo: VNA)

President Nguyen Xuan Phuc meets with representatives of the RoK organisations living and working in Vietnam. (Photo: VNA)

Leaders of the two countries agreed to promote and create favourable conditions for citizens of both sides to live, study, work and do business stably and safely, and continue to have opportunities to contribute to the socio-economic development of both countries. Vietnam is also committed to creating the most favourable conditions for Korean businesses, based on a stable law, creating a profitable business development environment.

Up to now, most of Vietnam’s provinces and cities have signed cooperation agreements with many RoK localities, organisations and businesses. The RoK investors are present in 59 localities in Vietnam, most of which are concentrated in Bac Ninh, Hanoi, Dong Nai, Hai Phong, Thai Nguyen, and Ho Chi Minh City.

“With deep affection for Vietnam and with my experience, I will continue to make efforts to support and further promote cooperation between the two countries in the coming time.”
Former RoK Ambassador to Vietnam Park Noh Wan

Exploiting potential and room for cooperation

Economic cooperation is one of the important pillars and has made a great contribution to the relationship between the two countries. The RoK is currently the 4th largest economy in Asia, the 10th largest in the world and has achieved many socio-economic, scientific and technological achievements. Over the years, economic cooperation between the two countries has grown rapidly, both in scale and efficiency, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RoK Park Jin, to Vietnam in October 2022, towards the 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc proposed that Vietnam and the RoK join hands to promote economic and trade cooperation, in the direction of balance, to raise two-way trade to 100 billion USD by 2023 and 150 billion USD by 2030.

Vietnam always welcomes RoK investors to expand their investment scale in Vietnam, especially in the fields of digital technology, electronics, renewable energy, infrastructure development, and the construction of specialised technology complexes, industrial parks, and high-tech agriculture areas.

Economic cooperation continues to be a highlight in the partnership between Vietnam and the RoK, actively contributing to the development of each country and at the same time contributing to strengthening the international position of both countries.

Vietnam and the RoK have become each other’s leading economic partners and have effectively implemented bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms, including the Vietnam-Korea Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA), while both are members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

As of September 2022, the RoK maintains the No. 1 position in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam with accumulated investment capital of 80.52 billion USD, accounting for 18.6% of total foreign investment capital in Vietnam.

In terms of development assistance (ODA), the RoK ranks second among countries providing ODA to Vietnam, having provided Vietnam with 1.2 billion USD in concessional loans from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) in the 2012-2015 period and 1.5 billion USD in the 2016-2020 period.

The RoK also ranks third in terms of trade cooperation with Vietnam with bilateral trade turnover reaching 66.65 billion USD (in 2019), 65 billion USD (in 2020) and 78 billion USD (in 2021). 

The RoK has also emerged as one of Vietnam’s key tourist supply markets in recent years. There are currently more than 1,000 direct flights between Vietnam and the RoK every month.

The number of RoK tourists to Vietnam in 2019 reached 4.2 million, while around 550,000 Vietnamese people visited the RoK. Although the number of RoK visitors to Vietnam decreased in the 2020-2021 period due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the figure has increased again since the beginning of 2022.

The RoK is Vietnam’s second largest labour export market, with about 48,000 Vietnamese workers living and working in the country. At the same time, Vietnam is the second ranking country in terms of sending labourers to the RoK.

In 2021, the two countries re-inked a regular Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to resume the reception of Vietnamese labourers to work in the RoK under the Employment Permit System (EPS). The two countries also signed an agreement on social securities, which allows the continuous payment of insurance premiums for citizens of the two countries who are working and living in the other country. This is the first social insurance agreement Vietnam has signed with a foreign country.

“The foundation of the development of cooperative relations between RoK and Vietnam is a complementary economic structure and many similarities in history and culture.”
Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Park Jin

The fruitful achievements of the 30-year journey of bilateral cooperation, together with the similarities between Vietnam and the RoK in history, culture and strategic interests, act as a driving force to further tighten the bond between the two peoples and two countries, for their mutual interest, thereby making positive contributions to peace, cooperation and development in the region and in the world.

The potential and opportunities for cooperation gained from political determination and new areas of cooperation in culture, education, economy, and technology will make an important contribution to nurturing and boosting the development of Vietnam-RoK relations in the coming years.

Production manager: Chu Hong Thang
Content: Son Ninh - Vu Phong
Translation: NDO
Design: Phung Trang - Vu Tuan
Photos: Thuy Nguyen, VNA, the Vietnam
National Administration of Tourism, Phung Trang, Tran Hai
Published: December 2022