Korea-Turkey Relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Korea to boost bilateral relations on May 2.

During a summit meeting with President Moon Jae-in, both sides underlined the importance of a better relationship as “blood brothers.” Turkey is accepted as a blood brother by Korea because of the unforgettable efforts of Turkish soldiers to protect women and children as well as to sacrifice numerous young soldiers for peace during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Before the talks about the partnership issues, Erdogan congratulated President Moon on the Seoul-Pyongyang meeting, and expressed his wishes for peace and security in the region by guaranteeing Turkey’s support for all kind of efforts in this process.

The visit was shaped by three main themes about bilateral cooperation such as the economy, defense, and culture. In the joint press release, two sides showed their expectations on the balanced growth of trade cooperation and quick implementation of the service industry and investments under the FTA framework which was signed in 2012. This was important to mention because the bilateral trade volume is not satisfactory for either side. Erdogan also shared his concerns about this case. He said the total population of the two countries is 132 million and the trade volume should be doubled with this potential to reach around $13-15 billion.

Turkey also invited Korean companies to take part in the Canal Istanbul Project which is a plan to build an artificial canal to link the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea in Istanbul. The Korean companies are already operating major projects in Turkey, and the officials showed their willingness to enlarge the cooperation areas such as construction, manufacturing and nuclear.

A partnership on nuclear power plant construction worth $20 billion which was a hot agenda in 2010 couldn’t be realized due to the financial and specific technical problems. But Korea remains an important country for Turkey on the nuclear issue. Even though both sides failed in the power plant project, recently, Korea Nuclear Association and Nuclear Engineers Society of Turkey agreed to cooperate on experience sharing, developing nuclear policy and accommodation of technical needs in March 2018.

Also, officials expressed their desires to improve the talk and meetings of MIKTA which is an informal partnership and led by foreign ministers of Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia. This initiative can create new developments for both countries to work together in a single organization to fulfill various global agendas. These two countries need to perform on different platforms together to understand each other and find new ways to establish different forms of collaboration. It has been frequently criticized that states, by themselves, are sometimes not sufficient to improve bilateral relations. 

Guidance from an institutional perspective is necessary regarding issues of international energy, terrorism, good governance, and peacemaking. On this case, Korea might have the support of Turkey, as a NATO ally, on the direction of recent political developments. Turkey has had many experiences of defense partnerships with this enormous organization and, for Korea, this country might be a good source of learning the management process of critical issues.

In the cultural context of their bilateral relations, Turkey announced a new initiative to enhance its cultural ties with South Korea. Turkey will establish a branch of the Yunus Emre Institute in Seoul soon. As a non-profit organization formed by Turkey in 2007 to promote Turkish culture and language all around the world, the institution will provide wide opportunities to the young generation of Korea with language learning courses, certificate programs, education opportunities in Turkey, summer schools and scholarship facilities. It will be a bridge between Turkey and Korea to reach the ideal form of their bilateral relations.

Both nations figured out the importance of new initiatives to improve bilateral relations from the state level to the institutional level. Thus, blood brothers can really become strategic partners in the near future.

Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu / The Korea Times


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