Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea (ROK) enjoy friendly relations since the establishment of their diplomatic relationship on 18 December 1973. The ROK established its diplomatic mission on 01 March 1975. Bangladesh opened its resident diplomatic mission in Seoul on February 16, 1987. Bangladesh continued to enjoy warm, friendly and active bilateral relations with Republic of Korea, since the diplomatic relations established in 1973. Both the countries have commonality in their history of struggle for independence as they achieved their independence from occupation forces. Again, both the countries struggled and sacrificed to preserve the dignity of their respective mother languages.
Based on the common values, democratic principles, ideals, and goal, Bangladesh-Republic of Korea relations have always been multifaceted. It encompassed political, economic, technological, defence, cultural, human development and other areas. Strengthening of strategic partnership between the two countries thus deserves to take all of these aspects into account. The trend of increased people to people contact continued with ever more number of Koreans visiting Bangladesh and a mentionable number of private sector and government delegations coming to South Korea.
High Level Visits from Bangladesh
Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to the Republic of Korea from 16 to 18 May 2010 at the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her entourage were received by President Lee Myung-bak and senior officials and were accorded a warm welcome reflecting the close friendship and ties between the two governments and peoples. President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held official talks in a cordial atmosphere and exchanged views on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues.
High Level Visits from the Republic of Korea
Former Prime Minister Lee Young-duk visited Bangladesh in 2-4 September 1994 followed by the visit of former Prime Minister Kim Suk-soo from 8-10 November 2002. After 17 years, Prime Minister H.E. Lee-Nak-yon visited Bangladesh from 13-15 July 2019 which visit created a momentum in the bilateral relationship. He was accompanied by a high level delegation, including a business delegation.
Bilateral Consultations Mechanism
With a view to further strengthen the political ties and to continue with regular exchange of dialogues, a standing mechanism of foreign office consultations (FOC) headed by Foreign Secretary/Vice Minister is in place since 2009. The 2nd FOC took place in 2014. Three Joint Economic Commission meetings led by the Foreign Ministers of both the countries were so far held between the two countries. The Joint Economic Commission meeting aims to review progress in the areas of cooperation and also to explore further areas of cooperation between the two countries. The last Joint Economic Commission meeting took place on 08-11 December 1993.
Korean involvement in the development sector of Bangladesh continued to expand at a gradual pace. Korea continued to hold its position as a major foreign investor in Bangladesh. The ROK provides ODA to share its development experience with other developing countries in the world. As a bilateral development partner, it provides this ODA in the form of a grant through KOICA ( Korea International Cooperation Agency ) and soft loans through EDCF (Economic Development Cooperation’s Fund) conducted by the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Exim Bank) to the priority areas of Bangladesh like- Health, ICT, Education, Water Treatment, Energy and Transport, etc .
The Republic of Korea has been one of the most reliable development partners of Bangladesh and has been extending significant cooperation and support to Bangladesh since the early 1970s. It is one of the major trading partners of Bangladesh. There is a steady increase in bilateral trade between the two countries which currently stands at approximately USD 1.57 billion. However, Bangladesh’s exports to the ROK is only USD 352.82 million and the trade balance is consistently in favor of the Republic of Korea. The main exporting items of Bangladesh to ROK are-Leather, Woven garments, Jute manufactures, Pharmaceuticals, Jute yarn & twine, other mfd. goods, Knitwear, Footwear (leather & sports), Stainless steel wares, frozen fish, Cap, Copper wire, and raw jute. Major items imported for ROK to Bangladesh are-vegetable products, Live animals, Mineral products, plastic & Articles thereof, Textile & Textile articles, Articles of stone, Machinery & mechanical appliances, Vehicles, aircraft, Optical, Photographic, Footwear, Umbrellas etc.
The Republic of Korea is a pioneer country to invest in Bangladesh and ranks 6th in providing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Korean FDI in Bangladesh continues to increase moderately; gross inflow peaked up to US$ 1122.86 million in December 2018.The Republic of Korea was the first country to set up an exclusive foreign Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) in Bangladesh and is still one of the top sources of Foreign Direct Investment, especially in textile and garment sector. It is increasingly engaging itself in the infrastructure, energy, ICT and Medical equipment sectors. More than 200 ROK companies have so far invested in Bangladesh. During the visit of the former Korean Premier H.E. Lee-Nak-yon in July 2019, he expressed his interest to make cluster investment in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Bangladesh.
Labor market for Bangladeshi laborers continued to grow under the existing Employment Permit System. Bangladesh has been sending its unskilled workers to the ROK under the Employment Permit System (EPS) since 2008 which has substantially reduced the cost of migration. Approximately 12,000 Bangladeshi contractual employees under EPS are engaged in the manufacturing sector in the Republic of Korea.
Bangladesh and ROK renewed the Cultural Exchange Programme between the two Governments for the period 2019-2023 during the visit of the Korean Premier in July 2019. The Embassy maintains strong ties with Korean cultural organizations with active participation in their major events like Seoul Friendship Fair, Itaewon Global Festival, SIWA Bazar, Global Gatherings, Rose Festivals, etc.
Cooperation in Education Sector
At present approximately 1000 Bangladeshi students are studying in different universities all over the ROK at different levels, mostly in science & engineering. They are fully or partially funded by the government of the ROK and in some cases by the respective universities, depending on their respective results. At present, cooperation in the field of education is included in the Cultural Agreement 1979.
Bangladesh Community in the Republic of Korea
Currently, there are more than 19,000 Bangladeshis living in ROK and among them, over 12,000 are EPS workers. Almost 1000 Bangladeshi students are pursuing their masters, Ph.D. and post-doctorate degree in different universities here. Others include professionals and business people. The Embassy engages with them through a series of national, cultural and social events. It often organizes dialogues and seminars with the students to exchanges views with them.