The second edition of the Ambassador Speaks series featured His Excellency Mr. Shin Bongkil, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to India, who delivered a lecture on ‘From Friendship to Special Strategic Partnership: What India and Korea Mean to Each Other’. Ambassador Shin was welcomed by Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, President (PIC). Ambassador Sudhir Devare, Member, PIC chaired the session.

Mr. Shin noted that Pune held a special place in Korea-India relations as it is home to at least a 100 Korean companies. He highlighted the deepening of Korea-India ties after there was a shift in foreign policy post the election of President Moon Jae-in in 2017. He mentioned that this was evinced by the state visits of President Moon to India in 2018, and of Prime Minister Modi to Korea in 2019. He stated that Korea and India’s relationship has made remarkable progress as trade, investment cooperation, and cultural exchanges have increased over the past few years. Emphasising that China losing its competitive cost factor edge had prompted Korean companies to look elsewhere for a market, India had emerged as the most desirable partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Citing India not only as an important manufacturing partner for several Korean companies, Mr. Shin added that India has remained the most viable market for several Korean products, such as Hyundai and Samsung to name a few.

He noted that the New Southern Policy of President Moon Jae-in elevated India’s status to that of a strategic partner, as Korea sought to finally build a foreign policy initiative to include a country other than its traditional four partners (US, China, Russia, and Japan). Given the security concerns in the region, he noted that the focus on growing the Korea-India partnership to include, peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific was a natural step forward. He also touched upon the historical-cultural relations between Korea and India, which are visible today in the number of Buddhist pilgrims from Korea that visit India.

Mr Shin also highlighted the continuing evolution of the cultural dynamic between Korea and India by mentioning the growing popularity of K-pop and K-drama among Indian youth. In conclusion, he highlighted that Korea and India’s mutual interests and respective strengths would help the relationship grow over the coming years to achieve both economic prosperity and peace and security in the region.