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Canada-the Republic of Korea relations

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Bilateral relations

Canada and the Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea) enjoy close relations, strengthened by longstanding people-to-people ties, shared values, a history of mutual support, and Canada’s first and only bilateral free trade agreement in the Indo-Pacific region - the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Canada’s involvement during the Korean War (1950-1953) and sustained 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.

This is reflected in the Canada-Korea Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, established in September 2022 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Yoon Suk Yeol, and based on five shared priorities in the area of: values/human rights; security and defence; economic prosperity and security; climate change, the environment and sustainability; and health and culture. In 2023, Canada and South Korea celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Canada is represented in South Korea at an Embassy in Seoul and a Consulate in Busan. In Canada, South Korea is represented by an Embassy in Ottawa and the Consulates 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 is one of Canada’s top source countries of international students. The new Canada-Republic of Korea Youth Mobility Arrangement, signed on May 17, 2023, permits Canadian and South Koreans youth age 18 to 35 to obtain a work permit to work and travel in each other’s countries. Through International Experience Canada (IEC), the arrangement allows South Korean youth to benefit from up to two 24-month participations under the Working Holiday and Young Professionals streams, but only once under the International Co-op (internship) stream. Canadian youth can apply through the South Korean equivalent. Over 220,000 Canadians identify themselves as being of Korean origin, and over 27,000 Canadians currently reside in South Korea. There are approximately 3,000 Korean-born adoptees in Canada.

Trade relations

South Korea is Canada’s seventh largest trading partner and sixth largest import and export partner. Canada-Korea two-way merchandise trade is robust, reaching $21.9 billion in 2022. In the same year, Canada exported $8.7 billion of merchandise to Korea, with the largest exports being: mineral fuels & oils, mineral ores, pulp & paper, meat products and intermediate food products. Canadian merchandise imports from South Korea for the same year totaled $13.2 billion, which included motor vehicles and parts, industrial machinery and equipment, electrical and electronic machinery and equipment, iron and steel products, and pharmaceutical products.

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Defence and security cooperation

Canada is committed to a close relationship with South Korea, including working together to maintain regional peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and to uphold the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy identifies South Korea as a strong democratic partner with which we share bilateral and global strategic interests. The Strategy commits Canada to support the Republic of Korea’s efforts to achieve a denuclearized, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula. To do so, Canada is building on long-standing defence and security ties, including through the United Nations Command (UNC) and via joint efforts to address the threats posed by North Korea’s illicit weapons programs.

Canada remains gravely concerned about North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions, including its ballistic missile launches, and coordinates closely with South Korea in response to these activities.

Canada and Korean War

As a member of the United Nations, Canada answered the call from the UN Security Council to support South Korea following its sudden invasion by North Korea on June 25th, 1950. Canadian naval ships arrived in the Korean Theatre of Operations on 30 July 1950. Over the course of the war, Canada dispatched 26,791 soldiers to South Korea between 1950 and 27 July 1953, making it the third largest contributor to the war effort among UN sending states. 516 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice. 378 soldiers are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, South Korea and 117 soldiers are interred in Canada and Japan. The remains of a further 16 soldiers have not been found and five sailors were lost at sea.  Canada’s contributions to the defence of South Korea and to upholding freedom remain an important foundation of the Canada-South Korea relationship to the present day.

Canadian Armed Forces representation

The Canadian Armed Forces have maintained a continuous presence in the United Nations Command (UNC) since the Korean War. The UNC Military Armistice Commission, headquartered in Seoul and Panmunjom, is responsible for supervising the 239.586 kilometre-long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) under the authority of the Armistice Agreement concluded on 27 July 1953.  Although the armistice ended hostilities, the two Koreas technically remain at war as a formal peace treaty has never been signed. 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 the Korean Peninsula. 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 South Korea

Canadian Defence Attachés have resided in Seoul since 1979. South Korea also maintains a Defence Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Ottawa. Defence relations between the Republic of Korea and Canada are robust and continue to grow. Today, bilateral defence cooperation includes reciprocal training, participation in joint and multilateral exercises, 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.

Contact information

Defence Relations
Office of the Canadian Defence Attaché

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

Climate and environment cooperation

Canada and Korea commit to achieving Paris Agreement targets of 40% emissions reductions by 2030. The goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2050. We also commit to safeguarding nature and halting biodiversity loss on our lands and in our waters. This puts nature on a path to recovery by 2050, according to the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework. Our countries have each taken a leadership role through the UN's Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC). We are working toward an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. This process addresses the full life cycle of plastics. It includes the marine environment and addresses plastic production, design and disposal. The INC’s fourth meeting takes place in Ottawa in April, 2024, followed by INC-5 in Busan in November, 2024. The parties expect a final agreement to be reached.

The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement enables the Environmental Affairs Council (EAC) to undertake regular technical and policy exchanges over many bilateral priority areas. The EAC is a body that creates a forum for subject matter experts from:

In December 2023, Canada and Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Climate Change Cooperation. This provides another avenue for strengthening our work on climate change issues. It includes an annual Climate Change Dialogue, first held in Ottawa in September 2023, between our Ambassadors for Climate Change.

Partnerships and organizations

To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and the Republic of Korea work closely in multilateral fora, such as:

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