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Perceptions of South Korean Foreign Policy towards Latin America: the cases of Brazil and Mexico

Alejandra Chacon, University of Chile

Our research project will study the South Korean, Brazilian, and Mexican’s academic perceptions on foreign policy, specifically, on political, economic, and cultural perceptions towards some very particular cases in Latin America: Brazil and Mexico.

In both cases, South Korea wants to establish a FTA (Free Trade Agreement) in order to level up the bilateral relations, but the two cases are completely different in results. With Brazil, the main problem in that this country belongs to the MERCOSUR, and for achieving a FTA, all countries have to agree for the agreement.  Despite of that and the geographical distance, South Korea has a productive and very strong bilateral relationship with Brazil, making a priority for the South Korean government in Latin America. This is reinforced by the necessity of new natural resources and development. They have signed many agreements in different areas of cooperation, science and technology, cultural issues, etc. In the bilateral economic exchange sector, formers Presidents Roh and Lula “agreed to encourage South Korean companies to participate in public and private projects in Brazil, in areas like oil, energy and construction, such as highways, railroads and ports”.1 In 2004 they also signed a “Comprehensive Cooperative Relationship for the Common Prosperity in the 21st. Century” Act and in the same year Korea and MERCOUSUR agreed to launch a joint feasibility study on a possible Korea-MERCOSUR FTA. In 2008, President Lee went to Brazil and it was also agreed to support South Korean companies seeking to participate in Brazil plans to build eight nuclear power plants by 2030 and 520 miles along the high-speed railway that will link Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Campinas and the presidents signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation in the development “green technology” in Brazil. 

In the case of Mexico, both countries have signed in 2005 a "Strategic Partnership for Mutual Prosperity in the XXI Century" and they agreed to launch the "Korea-Mexico Joint Experts Group on the Strengthening of Bilateral Economic Relations" in 2004. Finally, after many meetings in 2007, there was a Joint announcement on the launch of the Korea-Mexico FTA negotiations, but they were suspended after two rounds of negotiations in 2008.2 Dr. Uscanga from UNAM University, mentioned that some segments of the business sectors in Mexico seen the FTA as disadvantageous to their interests.3 In July of 2010, President Lee went to Mexico and he and President Calderon agreed to identify specific topics and subtopics for cooperation in science and technology, education and they signed some agreements such as Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Energy Efficiency.4

The research Project will study the differences between South Korea’s relationships with these two important Latin American countries (not only in the economic area) and what is the future role of South Korea in improving the bilateral relations with the two cases of our study.


2 Lopez Aymes, JF. “Comercio e inversión coreana en México: el TLC bilateral como víctima de respuestas divergentes a la crisis”, paper  presented in CELAO Conference, Guadalajara Mexico, November 2010. P.4.

3 Uscanga, C. “La diplomacia de „último recurso‚Äü en la negociación del Tratado de libre Comercio entre México y Corea del Sur”, paper  presented in CELAO Conference, Guadalajara Mexico, November 2010. P.10.

4 Source:


Download File: Alejandra_Chacon_SRG-av-1io.pdf

Center for Korean Studies