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Perceptions of the South Korean foreign policy towards Argentina, Brazil and Chile

Alejandra Chacon, University of Chile, International Studies Institute, Asia Pacific Center, Korean Studies Program


In the framework of the foreign policies of South Korea, arose the question of analyzing the situation and the importance of this country towards some countries of Latin America.

The administration of president Roh Moo-hyun obtained an historical achievement signing the Free Trade Agreement with Chile with results, in general positives according to both foreign ministries, because of the increment in the bilateral commerce at the first trimester of 2008, which got up to USD 1.969 millions with an increase of 32.1%, being the highest among the principal commercial partners of Chile. Also Korea maintain the fifth position as a commercial partner with Chile, after the US, China, Japan and Brazil.1

Bilateral relations with Argentina and Brazil, despite of non existing FTAs among these countries nowadays, it’s marked by a broad relation, that can be traced to the sixties and seventies when a massive Korean immigration was initiated, being approximately 105.000 those who arrived to all of Latin America, half of them in Brazil, country that now has 50.000 Koreans.2. In the case of Argentina, the first immigration wave arrived in 1965, and then in regular patterns between 1970 and 1978 and during the eighties, when the procedures for Korean immigrants in Argentina Act was signed in 1985.3 This and other common issues make as study and are a source of information on the Korean foreign policy. The main objective of this research is to determine and understand, from the point of view of Latin American scholars of Korea, their own thoughts about foreign policy (in politics, economy and cultural issues) towards Argentina, Brazil and Chile (ABC). The selected time frame was between 2003 and this year, because of the little time available to do the research and in order to have a state of the art map of the developing of this relations as well as the necessity of continuity of this politics, at the eve of a new administration in South Korea. Research was made thanks to a wide bibliographical review and the formulation of enquiries to South Korean scholars’ experts in Latin America, which gently answered the questions in terms of confidentiality and anonymity. The idea that scholars and not official functionaries would answer the questions arose out of the necessity of having a more objective or at least critical position of the official figures and, at the same time, to be open and understand the scholastic view of the professors on their own foreign policy.

This research was financed by the 2008 Small Research Grants Program in Korean Studies granted by the Center of Korean Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with the sponsorship of the Korean Academy of Korean Studies. It received the collaboration of the research assistant Gonzalo Muñoz Bravo in different aspects of the research and from Gonzalo Guaiquil as a translator of this paper. Both of them are students and members of the Korean studies program of the Asia Pacific Center of International Studies Institute at the University of Chile. It also received the assistance of the Director of the Center, Prof. Martín Pérez Le-Fort in the data processing from the questionnaires.

1 Source: Boletín de la Cámara de Comercio Coreana. Informativo Chile – Corea, INSOC- 305-2008.

2 Gymaraes, Lytton., “The Korean community in Brazil: challenges, achievements and prospects”, paper The 3rd World Congress of Korean Studies, Cheju National University, Jejudo, South Korea, Oct 27 -30, 2006. P.5.

3 Mera, Carolina, “Historia de la Migración hacia la Argentina”, En: Mera Carolina, Consiansi Liliana y González Carmen, “Coreanos en Argentina: 10 años de Historia”, Ediciones Al Margen, La Plata Argentina, Octubre de 2005. pp. 31-45.

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