By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editors Ms. Joy Cho, Reporter Jeong Da-jeong
The United Kingdom is viewed among many Koreans and many other peoples around the world as the cradle of parliamentary democracy, the country of Shakespeare and the Beatles and the host of the Premier League and the Wimbledon Tennis Championship.
However, among the Korean people, the UK is among the invaluable saviors of Korea and the democracy and freedom they enjoy today. The UK sent the second largest number of troops to Korea, after the United States, to fight and save the ROK from occupation by the North Korean and Chinese invasions forces.
Korea’s relationship with the UK began in 1883 when the UK became the second Western power to conclude an agreement with Korea when the two countries signed the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation.
The Korean people greatly look forward to celebrating the 140th anniversary of this event which will occur in 2023.
During the Korean War the modern bilateral relationship was truly forged. The UK sent the second largest contingent of troops, more than 80,000 men, to ward off communist aggression, and, in so doing, they helped lay the foundations for the country which Korea has become today.
The courage and sacrifice of those troops is commemorated by the Gloucester Valley Battle Monument in Paju, Korea, and the Korean War Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens alongside the river Thames.
This writer witnessed the gallantry of the Glosters fighting side by side with them against the North Korean invasion forces in the vicinity of the Gambak-san Mountain south of the Imjin River near Jeokseong, Gyeonggi Province,
Among the first British troops to arrive and fight in Korea was the 1st Battalion the Royal Ulster Riffles which was replaced after one year’s service in Korea by the Norfolk Regiment, King’s Regiment, King’s Own Regiment and Norfolk Regiment.
The gallant British soldiers were largely responsible for the defense of the Gambak-san Mountain defense line which was a substantial blocking defense against the combined North Korean Chinese ‘Spring Offensive’ of 1951 against the ROK, U.S. and other member troops of the United Nations Forces.
In this respect, Korea owes greatly to the gallantry and sacrifices made by the brave soldiers of the 1st British Commonwealth Division, composed to the 27th Canadian Brigade, 28th Australian Brigade, and 29th British Brigade.
According to an account of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the bilateral relationship has now blossomed into a bond between very like-minded countries who share common values including freedom, human rights and a commitment to the rule of law.
The Korea-UK bilateral ties have gone from strength to strength since 1883 and, today, our two countries work more closely than ever on issues affecting international relations, economics, culture, science and education among many other areas.
As one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and as a key member of NATO, the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth, the UK has been playing a leading role on issues including regional security in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and global issues such as sustainable development and climate change.
In 2022, our two leaders concluded the ‘Republic of Korea-UK Bilateral Framework for Closer Cooperation’ in global public goods, trade, defense and security areas among others. The framework will be the foundation to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in additional areas such as economic security, new technology, nuclear energy and climate change.
Furthermore, we will continue to work together towards the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and the establishment of a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
The Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the UK came into effect in 2021 and we are set to start negotiations for an enhanced deal within this year, ensuring a stable economic partnership between the two countries and enabling many Korean companies in diverse sectors such as finance, automobiles, home electronics, petroleum and gas, shipbuilding, marine transport and distribution to continue conducting business in the UK.
Furthermore, followed by the establishment of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in July 2021, the Republic of Korea has successfully been elected as a member of the Category (a) Council group of the IMO for the 11th consecutive term at the 32nd session of the IMO Assembly held in London on December 10th 2021. As a Council Member, we will continue to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships and establishing global standards for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).
British people‘s growing interest in Korean culture can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Hallyu! The Korean Wave’ exhibition which will continue until June 2023. This interest in Korea is expanding to include Korean language, Korean food, and Korean culture in general.
The Korean Cultural Centre, located next to Trafalgar Square, seeks to meet that interest and create opportunities for young Korean and British people to foster a mutual understanding of each other through a variety of cultural events.
As the bilateral relationship becomes stronger, the Korean community, estimated to number around 40,000 in the UK, will be able to find more opportunities to grow as well. Korea will continue to strive to promote the safety and interests of Korean nationals residing in or visiting the UK