Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), will pay an official visit to South Korea from 18 to 20 May. This trip forms part of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and South Korea and the Swiss-Korean Innovation Week. Several meetings are planned with the aim of consolidating cooperation with Seoul.
The official visit will be an opportunity for Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin to discuss economic relations with Minister for Trade Dukgun Ahn and Minister of SMEs and Start-ups Young Lee, and to sign a joint declaration with Minister of Science and ICT Jong-ho Lee. The visit will also strengthen bilateral relations in these areas between the two countries and underscores the importance Switzerland attaches to its relations with South Korea, the world’s tenth largest economy.
60th anniversary of diplomatic relations
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and South Korea. This was an opportunity for Mr Parmelin to emphasise the quality and breadth of bilateral relations that have developed between the two countries over the past six decades. Switzerland and Korea are also celebrating another anniversary; for almost 70 years, Switzerland has been an active member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea (NNSC), which operates on the border between the two Koreas. Its presence in Panmunjom is testimony to Switzerland’s commitment to promoting peace, security and stability on the Korean peninsula.
Sixth edition of the Swiss-Korean Innovation Week
Mr Parmelin’s working visit coincides with the Swiss-Korean Innovation Week, an annual event held in Seoul and organised by the Swiss Embassy. The Swiss team in South Korea also comprises a Swissnex office and the Swiss Business Hub. The Swiss-Korean Innovation Week is a platform that aims to facilitate bilateral cooperation between Switzerland and Korea in science, business relations and policy-making. A number of events will take place throughout the week, including a symposium on quantum science and technologies and a workshop on digital responsibility.
Signature of a joint declaration
During his visit, Mr Parmelin will sign a joint declaration with Science Minister Jong-ho Lee, aimed at strengthening existing ties between Switzerland and South Korea in all areas of research, particularly digital transformation, biotechnology and quantum technologies. The two countries will thus reiterate their willingness to continue to promote the development of their research relations.
Joint Committee for Science and Innovation
Scientific cooperation between Switzerland and South Korea is based on a bilateral agreement concluded between the two countries in 2008. The Joint Committee for Science and Innovation between Switzerland and South Korea, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of this agreement, will meet for the sixth time on 16 May in Seoul, prior to Mr Parmelin’s visit. The delegation is headed by Ambassador Jacques Ducrest. Representatives of research institutes, research and innovation promotion organisations and the governments of both countries will review the progress achieved in implementing the defined cooperation priorities and will examine the possibilities for enhancing existing cooperation.
An important partner
South Korea is an important partner. Trade between the two countries has steadily increased since the agreement between South Korea and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, came into force in 2006. In 2022, the volume of trade reached a record high of CHF 5.8 billion (+8.1%) and the country became Switzerland’s seventh most important trading partner in Asia. In terms of scientific cooperation and innovation, the two countries share common interests in many areas. Over the past five years, for example, the Swiss National Science Foundation has supported more than 80 research projects involving Korean researchers. Since 1963, the Swiss Confederation has awarded nearly 100 scholarships for excellence to Korean researchers and artists. In addition, ETH Zurich, the leading house for scientific cooperation between Switzerland and Asia, has several cooperation instruments at its disposal that benefit the Swiss scientific community.