‘The Posco project is not moving like we expected it to. But the ball is in India’s court’

The Idea Exchange

In this Idea Exchange moderated by Deputy Editor Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Korea's Ambassador Joon-gyu Lee speaks about Korea's FDI experience, strategic ties with India and why Gangnam Style has little to do with Korean culture

Joon-gyu Lee: Korea and India share a longstanding bilateral relationship. Except for the Cold War phase, relations between the two countries have been friendly and cooperative. India was the chairman of the UN Commission which successfully held the general elections in 1948 that led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, India was one of the 22 countries that joined the international effort for the establishment of peace on the Korean peninsula.

It might appear rather strange that despite a tradition of bilateral cooperation and considerable goodwill, the two countries began to drift apart in the following decades. Following the outbreak of the Cold War, India emerged as a guiding light of the Non-Aligned Movement, while Korea maintained the US-Korea alliance to defend its democracy against external security threat. On the economic side, India adopted an inward-looking import-substitution model of development, whereas Korea consistently pursued an outward-looking export-oriented development path and opened up its market to the world.

Things began to change in the early 1990s due to the end of the Cold War and the failure of India's import substitution policy. This motivated India to reorient its economic and foreign policy. India announced its new economic policy and a Look East Policy, the most important foreign policy initiative in the recent past. Around the same time, Korea emerged as an industrial power. As a result, our two-way trade and investment ties surged. The real turning point in our relations came in January 2010 when President Lee Myung-bak paid a historic state visit to India. We saw the upgrading of ties coupled with the effectuation of the Korea-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which set the course for rapid development of bilateral relations.

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