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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and South Korea
Switzerland maintains good and increasingly close relations with the Republic of Korea. The country is an important trading partner that is attractive for Swiss investors, and cooperation in the field of science and research is also gaining in importance.
In 2012–2013, Switzerland and the Republic of Korea have celebrated the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries. Switzerland is a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC), which was created pursuant to the ceasefire agreement of 1953. In the absence of a peace agreement, this is the only legal instrument to date preventing further outbreaks of hostilities on the Korean peninsula.
Since the free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and the Republic of Korea came into force in 2006, trade with Switzerland has become more extensive. The Embassy in Seoul has been supplemented by a Swiss Business Hub since November 2010, which promotes trade and investments between the two countries.
Following the 2009 crisis, the volume of bilateral trade in 2010 and 2011 reached record levels. In 2012, exports grew by 3.8% (machinery, pharmaceutical products, watches and watch parts), and more than 50 Swiss companies are operating in the Republic of Korea today. In Asia, the Republic of Korea is Switzerland's sixth largest sales market and the ninth largest exporter to Switzerland.
The Republic of Korea is one of Switzerland's eight priority countries in the field of education, research and innovation. The programme "Korean-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation" was launched as part of an agreement signed in 2008, which promotes Switzerland's standing as a research location in the Republic of Korea and provides support for 30 projects.
Scholars and artists from the Republic of Korea can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
In 2011, the Swiss School of Hospitality Management in Lausanne (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne) entered into a partnership with Hanyang University to intensify cooperation in the teaching of hospitality management.
At the end of 2012, there were 227 Swiss nationals resident in South Korea, of whom 69 hold dual citizenship.
Alongside private initiatives, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Swiss Films and Presence Switzerland promote cultural exchanges. The cultural fund set up in 2009 is intended to raise the profile of Switzerland in the Republic of Korea. At the World Expo 2012 in Yeosu, Switzerland presented a pavilion on the theme “The source: It's in your hands”. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Switzerland organised numerous events between summer 2012 and summer 2013. The programme included topics such as Swiss art and culture, design, as well as sustainability and innovation.
The Swiss embassy in Seoul helps to promote Switzerland's cultural presence in the Republic of Korea, and regularly participates in the "Tage der deutschen Sprache“, “Settimana della lingua italiana” and the “Journée de la Francophonie”.
At the end of the Korean War in 1953, Switzerland was nominated to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) on the demarcation line between the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). This was the first foreign deployment of members of the Swiss armed forces.
In December 1962, Switzerland established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea. Over the following decades, contact between the two countries has continuously deepened and they now enjoy close and friendly relations.
Switzerland remains committed to maintenance of the ceasefire agreement on the Korean peninsula and is ready to offer its good offices at any time, as it did when it hosted four-party talks between the two Koreas, China and the US in Geneva in 1997–1999.