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South Korea's state visit opened opportunities for further economic cooperation

Ministry for Foreign Affairs 1.10.2019 10.04
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Bilateral economic consultations between Finland and South Korea were held at the House of the Estates in Helsinki on Thursday 26 September. The consultations covered a wide range of topics and various sectors of trade and economic cooperation between Finland and South Korea. The importance of President Moon Jae-in's state visit to Finland in June 2019 for the trade relations between the two countries was emphasised during the discussions.

Photo: Hanna Öunap

Both parties commended the visit for its success and told that it has led to concrete progress in the cooperation in different fields. The Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) that were signed during the state visit and the progress made in their implementation were discussed at the consultations. Both parties agreed that the MoUs concluded in June provide only a framework for the cooperation, and now is the time for concrete action.

The most visible progress has taken place in aviation – Finnair will open a new route to the second largest city in South Korea, Busan, in spring 2020. Increasing flight capacity is an essential prerequisite for the growth in trade and tourism and for other cooperation between the countries. Finnair flies daily to the capital, Seoul, but there is demand for increasing the capacity.

The cooperation related to innovations and startups, launched during the state visit, is also progressing. The potential for cooperation in ICT and energy sectors was also brought up in the consultations. While Finland and South Korea are facing very similar challenges, they also have complementary competences.

The state visit may bear fruit long into the future

The state visit opened doors for other sectors, too. The South Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Yoo Eu visited Finland this autumn. During the visit, the South-Korean Ministry of Education and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture agreed on a wide range of cooperation activities in education. There is also strong potential for cooperation in the health sector.

The increase in food exports and the export of Finnish lifestyle products to South Korea were also discussed. The growth in these sectors reflects the fact that ordinary consumers in both countries are increasingly interested in each other's culture and product supply.

There is also a new kind of cooperation between the two countries: this spring, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment launched Talent Boost in South Korea. The programme aims to recruit Korean experts to sectors and regions suffering from shortage of labour in Finland.

Additionally, the consultations dealt with the extensive cooperation projects between Finnish and Korean companies in the maritime industries, which have long been the cornerstone of trade between Finland and South Korea. In addition, discussions were held on the K9 armoured howitzer procurement project, which both parties have welcomed.

The consultations were co-chaired by Nina Vaskunlahti, Under-Secretary of State for External Economic Relations at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Yun Kang-hyeon, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs of South Korea. The previous economic consultations between Finland and South Korea were held in Seoul in December 2016. The next consultations are to be held in 2020.

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