This is the first state visit to Switzerland by a South Korean head of state since Switzerland and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic relations in 1963. Today, President Park Geun-hye was received with military honours on the Federal Square in Bern by the entire Federal Council. In his speech in the Wandelhalle of the House of Parliament, the president of the Confederation spoke about the high value Switzerland places on the exchanges between the two countries, in particular in the fields of innovation and education: “Innovation is the motor of our two economies and is based on ground-breaking policies in key areas, especially education. Switzerland and South Korea top the list of international leaders in global competitiveness, innovation and quality of life.”
The speeches were followed by official talks led by the two presidents, which were also attended by Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC), Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), and Federal Councillor Alain Berset, Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA).
During the talks, the quality and potential for development of relations between Switzerland and the Republic of Korea were highlighted, in particular in the areas of technology, innovation and education, and economic and scientific cooperation. The talks also focused on current international issues such as climate and sustainable development. Switzerland's commitment to security and stability on the Korean Peninsula was also a subject of discussion.
On Tuesday, the two presidents will visit the Gewerblich-Industrielle Berufsschule Bern (gibb) [Commercial and Industrial Training College], where the Swiss dual vocational education system will be introduced to President Park Geun-hye. The Republic of Korea has expressed great interest in the Swiss vocational education system. Both countries place high value on vocational training and have been winners in various categories of the WorldSkills International competitions.
Several official documents signed
Federal Councillor Berset, representing Switzerland, and the South Korean minister of foreign affairs Yun Byung-se signed a social insurance agreement, the purpose of which is to ease economic exchanges between the two countries. This is the second social insurance agreement, following the one signed with India, which is specifically designed to avoid double insurance and to facilitate the recruitment of personnel as well as the provision of services in another state.
In addition, Federal Councillor Berset and Minister Chung Seung signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of therapeutic products between the South Korean Ministry for Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) and the FDHA, with Swissmedic as implementing authority. Cooperation between the therapeutic products authorities is primarily intended to provide better health protection for the population, in particular in the context of the increasing globalisation of the development and production of therapeutic products.
In view of the importance of education, research and innovation for the two countries, Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann and the South Korean minister of trade, industry and energy, Yoon Sang-jick, signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate exchanges between the two countries' respective national agencies for promoting innovation. In the same spirit, the EAER signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Korean Ministry of Education on strengthening mobility and dialogue between the two countries. In addition, several scientific research institutions (ETHZ, ETHL, Empa) have signed protocols of understanding with partner organisations in the Republic of Korea on developing closer ties. Finally, Switzerland Tourism and Swiss Export Risk Insurance (SERV) also signed documents with their South Korean counterparts.
Switzerland and the Republic of Korea signed a memorandum of understanding on institutionalising their political dialogue.
Long-standing close bilateral relations
Closer contacts with the Republic of Korea – a leading Asian country – is an integral part of Swiss policy on Asia, which aims to further develop Switzerland's bilateral relations with the states of the region, enhance Swiss presence in regional forums, and pursue a policy of solidarity with Asian countries. The Republic of Korea is already one of Switzerland's most important political and economic partners in Asia.
In 2013, Switzerland and the Republic of Korea have not only celebrated 50 years of official bilateral relations but also another anniversary: Since 1953, Switzerland has been an active member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission on the inner Korean border within the framework of its peace policy commitment to ensure security and stability on the Korean peninsula. As part of its policy of good offices, Switzerland supported the six rounds of the "Four-Party Talks" on the Korean peninsula that took place between December 1997 and August 1999 in Geneva. In Pyongyang, North Korea, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) maintains an office that pursues a purely humanitarian mission. The Republic of Korea appreciates Switzerland's commitment on the Korean peninsula.
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