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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Korea an important partner, Germany’s new ambassador says

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Student and teacher representatives of high schools in Seoul pose with German Ambassador-designate to Korea Georg Schmidt, third from right in second row; and Kim Hyo-joon, chairman of the Alumninetzwerk Deutschland-Korea (Adeko), fifth from right in second row, after a youth exchange agreement was signed between German and Korean associations and Adeko in Seoul on Monday. [PARK SANG-MOON]
Student and teacher representatives of high schools in Seoul pose with German Ambassador-designate to Korea Georg Schmidt, third from right in second row; and Kim Hyo-joon, chairman of the Alumninetzwerk Deutschland-Korea (Adeko), fifth from right in second row, after a youth exchange agreement was signed between German and Korean associations and Adeko in Seoul on Monday. [PARK SANG-MOON]

As geopolitical tensions grow, Germany sees Korea as an increasingly important partner in the Indo-Pacific region, Germany’s incoming ambassador to Korea said at an event hosted in Seoul on Monday,

“Korea is a very important partner in the Indo-Pacific, as we are currently experiencing deepening antagonism between the two superpowers, China and the United States,” said Georg Schmidt, the German ambassador-designate to Korea, speaking at an event to celebrate 140 years of Korea-Germany relations.

“As both Germany and Korea have close economic ties with China and continue to cooperate closely with the United States, we are in a place where we have to think through what positions to take,” he said. “It is therefore the more important that we continue to deepen our partnership, an example of which is taking place today.”

Schmidt was addressing a group of corporate executives and educational experts with ties to Germany gathered for an MOU-signing ceremony to boost youth exchanges between Korea and Germany.

The event, hosted by Adeko, short for the Alumninetzwerk Deutschland-Korea, an association of corporate executives and scholars in Korea who have studied or worked in Germany, was joined by members of the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Korea-Germany Association (KDG) and the Germany-Korea Association (DKG).

Adeko, the KDG and DKG agreed to help 30 students from Deoksu High School in Seoul travel to Germany this year for an exchange program. They plan to help at least 200 students, both German and Korean, take part in similar exchange programs in 2024, and another 500 by 2026.

“The exchange of culture and ideas between the next generation of leaders of our countries will prove fruitful for both Korea and Germany,” Kim Hyo-joon, chairman of Adeko, said at the event. “Such exchanges could be the foundation for another level of partnership between Korea and Germany, one that would be able to respond to the competition for technological supremacy between the United States and China.”

According to the Bonn-based academic institute German Academic Exchange Service, Korea was the No. 1 destination for German scholars studying abroad in the Indo-Pacific in 2022, followed by Japan, Australia, India and China.

Within the past two years, the number of German students studying in Korea was twice as high as the number of Korean students studying in Germany, according to the institute. Some 6,400 Koreans are estimated to be studying across German universities, according to the German Embassy in Seoul.

The MOU-signing ceremony marked the start of a three-day forum organized by Adeko, with support from the German Embassy in Seoul and the chamber of commerce, in celebration of 140 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Korea.

The German Empire and the Joseon Kingdom signed a trade and friendship agreement in 1883. This agreement was updated between the Federal Republic of Germany and Korea when they recognized each other as sovereign states in 1955 and established ambassador-level ties in 1958.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]