King and Queen on State Visit to South Korea from 25 to 28 March - #BELKOR2019

State Visit to South Korea

Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians will make a state visit to the Republic of Korea from 25 until 28 March 2019. They will lead a delegation of over 200 people: ministers, high officials, CEO’s, representatives of academic institutions and Belgian media. Seoul will be the main location of all foreseen activities. Her Majesty the Queen will also visit Songdo, an ultraconnected “smart city” in Incheon.

Korea and Belgium have a long history of friendship, and enjoy strong political and economic, but also academic and cultural ties. It is the second state visit of Belgium to Korea. The last one dates back to 1992, when King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola visited the country. Two years after the Belgian Economic Mission with Princess Astrid, this visit offers an excellent opportunity to further strengthen those ties and continue the great cooperation between our countries. During four days the visit will allow for political contacts at the highest level, knowledge sharing and the promotion of further economic, academic and cultural cooperation.

Some highlights of the visit

  • Summit Talks with the President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in at the “Blue House”
  • Commemoration ceremonies at the National Cemetery and the War Memorial of Korea.
  • Meeting with Speaker Moon Hee-Sang and opening of an exhibition with diplomatic archives on Belgium-Korea relations at the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.
  • Ceremony at the City Hall where King Filip will be offered the honorary citizenship of the City of Seoul.
  • Investment and trade promotion events on life science & healthcare, smart cities, digital media, the 4th industrial revolution and other subjects.
  • Multiple cultural, academic and social activities, with a focus on sustainability, social entrepreneurship, innovation and… taekwondo!

I/ Political Ties - A long lasting friendship

Korea and Belgium first established diplomatic relations in 1901. Suspended for a few decades during the Japanese occupation, relations resumed when Belgium was one of the first nations to recognize the South Korean government after its establishment in 1948. The political ties between our two countries are built upon our shared values of peace, democracy, freedom, human rights and international cooperation.

From 1951 to 1953, Belgium participated in the Korean War within the United Nations Command, with 3,171 volunteers, with more than 100 casualties and almost 500 injured. During the state visit, Their Majesties will pay tribute to all patriots and martyrs fallen during the Korean War at the National Cemetery and at the War Memorial of Korea.

Our two nations maintain a true and long-lasting friendship. During the state visit, an exhibition of some of the most important archives in the diplomatic relations between both countries will be on display at the National Assembly.

Belgium supports the current inter-Korean peace dialogue and congratulates President Moon for his efforts to reduce the tension on the Korean peninsula. However, this does not mean that the EU or Belgium, as a member of the Security Council, favors sanctions relief at the moment. Unfortunately, the DPRK has not taken any real steps yet towards comprehensive, irreversible and internationally verified denuclearization so far.

II/ Economic ties – Strong trade partners

Apart from high level official exchanges, another objective of the state visit is to introduce our companies to the innovative Korean market, to strengthen existing ties and explore new economic opportunities. According to the latest trade statistics, South Korea is the 35th most important export market for Belgium, with 1.6 billion euro of exports. It is also the 25th supplier of Belgium with 2.5 billion euro of imports. The main export goods from Belgium to South Korea are: chemicals, plastics, machines and transport equipment, and food products. Imports from South Korea to Belgium consist mainly of transport equipment, base metals, machines and plastics.

Also on the investment front our ties are strong, with several important Belgian investments in Korea. Solvay has been in Korea for nearly 45 years and is the biggest Belgian investor with more than 500 employees. Another big investor is Umicore that has a battery factory and an R&D-center in Cheonan. In 2014, ABInBev purchased the Korean brewer Oriental Brewery and also many other Belgian companies are active in Korea.

Major Korean companies (Hyundai, Samsung, KIA, Doosan and many more) have also invested significantly in Belgium. Mobis Parts Europe distributes original parts of Hyundai and Kia Motors from Belgium to the rest of Europe. Hyundai Heavy Industries Construction Equipment and LG their European and Benelux headquarters in Belgium. Furthermore, Kangstem Biotech conquers the European market with cell therapy products from its Belgian production unit and several Korean companies have opened a representative office in Brussels or made large property investments in Brussels.

Technological innovation is one of the key aspects for the future cooperation between Belgian and Korean companies. The three Regional Governments (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels), together with some key partners, will organise several investment and trade promotion activities in innovative sectors such as life sciences and healthcare, smart cities, digital media and the 4th industrial revolution.

III/ Academic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges

Both our countries are known for their excellent universities and innovative research institutes. More and more Belgian students find their way to Korean universities through exchange programs. Belgian institutions are, in turn, increasingly interested in attracting Korean students and researchers to Belgium. The Belgian Embassy in Seoul receives approximately 150 applications for student visas each year. In 2014, Ghent University Global Campus (GUGC), the first European campus in Korea, started with three bachelors in Life Sciences.

The academic delegation that is accompanying Their Majesties the King and the Queen on their state visit, will have the opportunity to meet with their Korean partner universities during a top-level academic breakfast. Furthermore, they will attend a joint Korean-Belgian conference on artificial intelligence in the health sector, organised on the campus of the Seoul National University.

Their Majesties also reserved ample time for culture. Cultural exchanges between Korea and Belgium are very frequent in all kinds of artistic fields. In terms of classical music the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels is considered as one of the most prestigious competitions for classical music worldwide. Her Majesty the Queen, who is honorary president of this yearly competition, will visit the Korea National University of Arts, who has many alumni who performed exceptionally well with most recently soprano Sumi Hwang and violinist Ji Young Lim winning first place in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Throughout their visit, Their Majesties will, on several occasions, pay tribute to the rich cultural history of Korea. On the first day they will visit the Furniture Museum, where they will take part in a traditional Korean tea ceremony. Later on in the visit the King will attend a unique taekwondo demonstration at Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters.

At the end of the state visit, Their Majesties will officially open the Belgian Life Festival, where, during three days, Koreans can get a taste of Belgium: diamonds, beers, meat and concerts of Belgian artists.

The Belgian community in South Korea is estimated around 400-500 people. The vast majority of Belgians live in Seoul and the Gyeonggi province. During their visit, Their Majesties will meet several Belgian residents in Korea. One of them is Marie-Hélène Brasseur who works as a doctor in the Jeon Jin Sang Clinic in Seoul where, together with her team, she has founded one of the very first palliative care units in the whole of Korea.

IV/ Common Global Challenges

His Majesty the King has always shown a particular interest in inclusive growth. Therefore, during the state visit he will pay specific attention to social and innovative entrepreneurship. He will lead the discussion between Korean and Belgian start-ups and change-makers at the premises of Root Impact.

As an Advocate of the UN sustainable development goals (SDG’s), Her Majesty the Queen will meet former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon and policy-makers to learn more about Korea’s efforts to promote the SDGs. She will visit the smart city of Songdo and discuss climate change with Korean youth ambassadors of UNICEF.

The full programme and all useful information about the State Visit is available on the website www.belgianstatevisit.be. Throughout the visit, the programme can be followed on social media with the hashtag #BELKOR2019.