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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and South Korea
Switzerland maintains excellent, and increasingly intense, relations with South 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 are celebrating the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations. Switzerland is a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC), the legal instrument for the prevention of hostilities on the Korean peninsula.
Since the free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and South Korea came into force in 2006, the economic exchange between the Switzerland and South Korea has become more extensive. The Embassy in Seoul has been supplemented by a Swiss Business Hub since November 2010, which is responsible for business relations between the two countries.
Following the 2009 crisis, the volume of bilateral trade in 2010 and 2011 reached record levels. In 2011, exports grew by 3.3% (machines, pharmaceutical products, watches and watch parts), and more than 50 Swiss companies are represented in South Korea. In Asia, South Korea is Switzerland's sixth largest sales market and the ninth largest exporter to Switzerland.
In the area of education, research and innovation, South Korea is one of Switzerland's eight priority countries. 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 South Korea and provides support for 30 projects.
Scholars and artists from South Korea can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
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 2011, there were 235 Swiss nationals resident in South Korea, of whom 79 hold dual citizenship.
Alongside private initiatives, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia promotes cultural exchange. The cultural fund set up in 2009 is intended to raise the profile of Switzerland in South Korea. At the World Expo 2012 in Yeosu, Switzerland presented a pavillion on the theme “The Source: It's in your hands”.
The Swiss Embassy in Seoul helps to promote Switzerland's cultural presence in South Korea, and it regularly participates in the “Settimana della lingua italiana” and the “Journée de la Francoponie”.
From February to April 2012, Switzerland organized “Swiss Weeks in Seoul” to mark both the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the Expo 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea. The programme included topics such as Swiss art & culture, design, as well as sustainability and innovation.
At the end of the Korean War in 1953, Switzerland was nominated as a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) on the demarcation line between North and South Korea. This was the first foreign deployment of members of the Swiss armed forces. In December 1962, Switzerland established diplomatic relations with South Korea. From 1997 to 1999 Switzerland hosted four-party talks between the two Koreas, China and the US in Geneva.
A free-trade agreement between the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and the Republic of Korea has been in force since 2006.