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Canada-the Republic of Korea relations

Bilateral relations 

Canada and the Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea) enjoy close relations, strengthened by people-to-people ties, as well as Canada’s first and only free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region - the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Canada’s involvement during the Korean War (1950-1953) and sustained positive political and economic cooperation also contribute to this relationship. The friendly bilateral relationship continues to develop as South Korea becomes an increasingly important strategic and economic partner as well as a like-minded ally in multilateral forums. Canada is represented in South Korea at an Embassy in Seoul and an honorary consulate in Busan. In Canada, South Korea is represented by an Embassy in Ottawa, and the Consulate General in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

People-to-people ties

Canada and Korea share strong people-to-people linkages stemming from historical connections, which are enhanced by increasing immigration and tourism flows, as well as business visitors. South Korea has also long been and continues to be one of Canada’s top source countries of international students. In addition, up to 4,000 Korean youth travel to Canada annually for a working holiday. Over 200,000 Canadians identify themselves as being of Korean origin. Over 27,000 Canadians currently reside in South Korea, including about 3,200 English language teachers. There are approximately 3,000 Korean-born adoptees in Canada.

Trade relations

South Korea is Canada’s seventh largest trading partner, 8th largest merchandise export market, and 6th largest source of merchandise imports. Canada-Korea two-way merchandise trade is robust, reaching $14.3 billion in 2020. In the same year, Canada exported $4.7 billion of merchandise to Korea, consisting primarily of mineral ores, mineral fuels and oils, pulp of wood, meat, and machinery. Canadian merchandise imports from Korea nearly $9.6 billion in merchandise [in 2020]. Canada and Korea established a bilateral “Strategic Partnership” in 2014 which led to the implementation of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) in 2015 and the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Agreement in 2017.

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Operations

Canada is committed to a close relationship with South Korea, including working together on regional security issues on the Korean Peninsula. The two Koreas technically remain at war, as hostilities were concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Canada remains gravely concerned about North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions, such as nuclear and missile tests and related proliferation, and coordinates closely with South Korea in response to these activities.

Canada has its presence in United Nations Command (UNC), which oversees the implementation of the Korean War Armistice Agreement via the UNC’s Military Armistice Commission. Canada has a sustained contribution of Canadian Forces members embedded in UNC provides exercises to contribute to the stability and security in the region.  These exercises include strategic planning and consultations with military and diplomatic counterparts from participating partners and allied nations, and are designed to enhance the readiness of the Combined Forces Command on the Korean Peninsula.

Defence relations

The military relationship between Korea and Canada dates back to the time of the Korean War. The Canadian Defence Attaché and an Attaché Assistant represent the Canadian Armed Forces presence in Korea.

Canada and Korean War

As a member of the United Nations, Canada declared its support of South Korea following its sudden invasion by the Communist State of North Korea on June 25th, 1950. Canadian Naval Ships had arrived in the Korean Theatre of Operations on 30 July 1950. Contributing the third largest number of soldiers among the UN countries, Canada had dispatched 26,791 soldiers to South Korea between 1950 and 27 July 1953. The United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) was established in July 1953 to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement. As a result of the War, 516 Canadians died and of these 378 soldiers are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea. Another 16 soldiers have not been found and 5 sailors were lost at sea. The remaining 117 soldiers are buried in Canada and Japan.

Canadian Armed Forces representation

The United Nations Command (UNC) Military Armistice Commission, headquartered in Seoul and Panmunjom is responsible for supervising the 244-kilometre-long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) under the authority of the Armistice Agreement signed between North and South Korea on 27 July 1953. The Armistice Agreement remains the UN's longest running Peacekeeping Mission. Canada contributes one senior officer (Colonel or Navy Captain, as Canadian Defence Attaché) and one Sergeant (the Canadian Defence Assistant Attaché) as a Liaison Team to the UNC and participates in Guard Post inspections, investigations of cease-fire violations and other events and ceremonies including Repatriation of War Remains from North Korea.  There are a number of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) officers embedded with the UNC in South Korea and with the UNC (Rear) in Japan.

Military relations with Korea   

Canadian Defence Attachés have resided in Seoul since 1979. Since 1990, Defence Relations between the Republic of Korea and Canada have increased to include reciprocal training, official visits and exchanges of information.

Korean War commemorative and Remembrance activities in Korea

Canadian veterans of the Korean War return to visit South Korea every year in April under programs sponsored by the Korean Veterans Association of Korea and the South Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. The Canadian Defence Relations Office, on behalf of Veteran's Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence Canada supports these visits and other commemorative activities.

Poppies are worn 2 weeks before the Canadian Remembrance Day of 11 November to commemorate the sacrifices of those who fought and died during the wars of the 20th century including the Korean War. Poppies are available in the reception area of the Embassy from the last Friday of October.

Contact information

Defence Relations
Office of the Canadian Defence Attaché

Tel.: 822 3783 6251
Fax: 822 3783 6139
Email: seoul-dr@international.gc.ca

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