The president of South Korea wrapped up an official visit to Norway this week that ended with both him and Norway’s prime minister promising increased cooperation between the two countries. South Korea is one of Norway’s largest trading partners in Asia and keen on having more influence in the Arctic.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak gave a lecture at the University of Oslo, met Crown Prince Haakon at the Royal Palace, was guest of honour at a government-hosted banquet at Akershus Fortress and Castle and met Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg for bilateral talks. Given ongoing conflicts with its neighbour to the north, along with regional tensions with China, Myung-bak said the model that’s ensured peace for the past 100 years among Nordic countries sets a “phenomenal” example that’s worth studying more closely.
Stoltenberg said that Norway supports South Korea’s application for observer status at the council of nations bordering on the Arctic (Arktis Råd), and Lee said he hopes the application will be approved by next spring. South Korea has already had a research station on Svalbard for the past 10 years and works closely with shipping and shipbuilding interests in Norway. The potential for melting ice to open new Arctic trade routes is of great interest to both the South Korean government and its own maritime industry. Lee himself is a former top executive at industrial giant Hyundai.
Trade between Norway and South Korea, meanwhile, continues to grow with Norwegian exports to South Korea rising 70 percent so far this year, according to trade organization Norsk Industri. If the trend continues, reported the organization, the value of exports to South Korea (currently NOK 13.8 billion) may exceed that of exports to China (NOK 15 billion) next year.