By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Feature Editors Kim Hyung-dae, Yeu Min-yul
On Aug. 24, the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China commemorated the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties with events in their capital cities.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea announced that official anniversary ceremonies were held concurrently at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 and the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing at 6 p.m., China time also on Aug. 24.
Foreign Minister Park attended the Seoul gathering and read President Yoon Suk Yeol’s letter celebrating the 30-year milestone between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, on his part, read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter during the Beijing event.
Prior to the festivities, the two ministers met during a virtual event and oversaw the submission of a joint report on the development of Seoul-Beijing relations.
The report, which was submitted to the governments of both countries, has been drafted by a joint committee launched following the 29th anniversary last year. Consisting of Korean and Chinese experts from the private sector, the committee made a set of policy proposals to further advance the Seoul-Beijing ties in various fields.
In the economic sphere, the Korean-Chinese relations and cooperation especially stands out.
According to a recent Yonhap News Agency report, the bilateral relations especially stand out in the area of economic cooperation. According the report published on Aug. 23, 2022, Korea's exports to China have increased by more than 160 times since they established diplomatic relations 30 years ago, much higher than the growth rate of Korea's overall overseas shipments.
The Korean exports to China came to US$162.9 billion last year, 162.4 times the value of slightly over $1 billion in 1991, one year before their establishment of diplomatic relations, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
Over the same period, Korea's total exports to China increased by nine times US$644.4 billion from US$71.9 billion.
Korea's shipments to the United States rose 5.2 times to US$95.9 billion during the cited period, with those to Japan expanding 2.4 times to US$30.1 billion.
China was Korea's 15th-largest export destination in 1991, with the U.S. taking the top place, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and Singapore.
China outpaced America and secured the No. 1 place in 2003, retaining the leading status for the past 20 years.
Korea's trade balance with China has remained in the black since posting a surplus of US$1.07 billion in 1992.
In the first seven months of this year, Korea's trade surplus came to US$3.57 billion, but it posted a trade deficit for 3 months running in July and is expected to record red ink in August as well.
The continued deficit stems mainly from the fallout of China's lockdowns of Shanghai and other big cities to stem the spread of COVID-19, with a slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy also playing a part, according to KITA.
Last year, according to the Yonhap report, Korea was China's No. 4 export destination, with the latter's shipments reaching $150.5 billion, or 4.5 percent of its total exports.
Relations between the two countries have not been very warm during the past governments in Korea due to many reasons, but with the outset of the new government in Korea under President Yoon expectations are very high in anticipation of improvement and expansion of relations between the two countries and peoples with the passage of time.
Culture is one area where Korea and China can seek increased cooperation between them.
Korean films and other cultural contents that transcend the political-ideological differences between them seem to offer breakthrough chances for the two countries and peoples helping the two countries and peoples come closer together to each other.
Among them are such dramas as My Love from the Star, Descendants of the Sun and Squid Game.
Not long after the election of President Yoon, President Xi Jinping of China sent a congratulatory message to the then President-elect Yun saying: 'Let's keep our initial intention of keeping good relations and President-elect Yoon responded, "I am confident that the relations between Korea and China will develop further."
On the morning of March 11, President-elect Yun received a congratulatory message from President Xi Jinping from Chinese Ambassador to Korea Xing Haiming at the office of the now ruling People Power Party (PPP) in Yeouido, Seoul.
In the celebration message, President Xi said, "I express my sincere and warm congratulations on the election of the 20th President of the Republic of Korea. China and Korea are close neighbors and important cooperation partners."
President Xi said, “This year marks the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations, which are significant for China-Korea relations.” Then he said, "I hope to bring welfare to the two countries.".
According to a report of the major news agency, Xinhua, on June 7, 2022,
President Yoon Suk-yeol named a new ambassadors to China, Professor Chung Jae-ho of Seoul National University, who was largely considered in Seoul as a ‘pro-Chinese personality’ in Korea.
After receiving his doctor's degree at the University of Michigan in 1993, Chung taught at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and joined the faculty of Seoul National University in 1996.Chung was a visiting professor at Renmin University in 2007 and a former director of the Institute for China Studies and of the Center for International Studies.
Appointment of Prof. Chung as Korean ambassador Beijing is interpreted as Yoon’s good intention to improve relations, cooperation and friendship between Korea and China.
On August 24 this year, a lecture meeting was held in Busan, Korea’s send largest city, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The meeting, organized by the Korea-China Friendship Association, was attended by Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon, chairman of Korea-China Friendship Association Shin Jung-taek, Consul General of the Chinese Consulate General in Busan Guo Peng, and representatives of the media, academia and industry from the two countries.
Addressing the meeting, Chairman Shin said that Korea and China cherished their friendship, and had strong hopes that the two countries will help each other with inclusiveness and carry out friendly exchanges in the spirit of standing together in times of difficulties.
In his address, Park expressed hopes that in the complex and ever-changing international environment, bilateral relations between Korea and China will continue to develop in the direction of mutual benefit, and noted that Busan is ready to play an important role in this process.
Ambassador Xing Haiming of China said in his video address that since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries 30 years ago, China and Korea have made brilliant achievements in exchanges and cooperation in various fields, setting a good example for the development of relations between countries with different systems.
Xi then said, “The Chinese side is willing to work with the Korean side to continue strengthening strategic communication, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges so as to upgrade bilateral relations, bring more benefits to the two peoples and inject more impetus into world and regional peace and development.”
Diplomatic relations between Korea and China were formally established in 1986. In recent years, Korea and China have endeavored to boost their strategic and cooperative partnership in numerous sectors, as well as promoting a high-level relationship. Trade, tourism and multiculturalism, specifically, have been the most important factors of strengthening two neighboring countries’ cooperative partnership.
Korea and China have been bound together by a shared history, including an overlap in cuisine, religion, a common language script and legal systems, and kinship ties that reach back thousands of years, especially during the Song and Ming Dynasty, where it shared a close trade and diplomatic relationship with Goryeo and the Joseon Dynasty respectively. The Ming and Joseon emerged after the invasion of the Mongols and shared close Confucian ideals in its society. Furthermore, the Ming had assisted Joseon during Japan’s Toyotomi Hideyoshi invasion of Korea, in which the Wanli Emperor sent a total of 221,500 troops to help the Korean people defend themselves from the Japanese invaders. Joseon had also used Classical Chinese as a common script alongside Korean, and its central government was modelled after the Chinese system.
Contemporary relations between Korea and China are characterized by extensive trading and economic relations.
According to an account of Wikipedia, China is by far Korea's largest trading partner, with China importing goods worth US$160 billion from h Korea in 2018, which comprised 26% of Korea's total exports. Twenty-one percent Korea's imports also came from China, worth US$107 billion in 2018. In 2015, Korea and China signed the bilateral Free Trade Agreement which was aimed to boost annual bilateral trade to over US$300 billion, while lifting both countries' GDP.
In November 2020, Korea and China, along with 13 other Asia-Pacific nations, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest free-trade agreement in history which covers 30% of the world's population and economic output. Korea, China and Japan are also engaged in long-running negotiations for a trilateral free-trade agreement which would further integrate their economies.
Recently, Korea and China are known to be trying to organize Presidential and governmental visits, working together on the Korean Peninsula, assisting with the development of other countries, and cooperating in numerous areas.
In 1983, relations between Korea and China were normalized, deepening economic and political ties. Since then, the two countries have upgraded their relationship in five phases: In 1983, it was a “friendly cooperative relationship”; in 1998, it was called a “collaborative partnership for the 21st century”; in 2003, it was described as a “comprehensive cooperative partnership”; in 2008, it was considered a “strategic cooperative partnership”; and in 2014 it was called an “enriched strategic cooperative partnership”.
Since 2004, China is the main trade partner of Korea and is considered a key player for the improvement of inter-Korean relationship.
The summit meeting between the then President Park Geun-hye and President Xi Jinping of China showed promise of warming relations in July 2014, President Xi visited Seoul before its traditional ally of North Korea, and in their talks, both leaders affirmed their support for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations on March 23, 2021, President Xi Jinping and President Moon Jae-in of Korea agreed to promote dialogue between the two countries, to reschedule a visit by Xi to Seoul that was postponed later due to the pandemic, and to work out a blueprint for the development of bilateral ties over the next three decades.
On Dec. 23, 2021, it was reported that senior Korean diplomats, including Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, will hold talks online with Chinese diplomats. Zhao Lijian, a Chinese government spokesperson said that he hoped the meeting could "have a positive effect on enhancing communication and mutual trust and the promotion of bilateral relations."
For aims of a détente, Korea and China held a summit in Hangzhou, eastern China, on Sept. 5, 2016 with each party's leaders, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping and Representative Park Geun-Hye to discuss the issue of THAAD. During the summit, Park reemphasized that the THAAD deployment is only to be aimed against North Korea and that there should be no reason for China's security interest to be concerned.
However, President Xi reiterated China's firm stance against the deployment of THAAD stating that it could “intensify disputes." Yet, the two countries still emphasized the long history of their relationship and agreed that a stable and healthy bilateral relationship will benefit both countries.