South Korea

With investments in research and development constantly on the rise, South Korea has become the OECD's number one research nation – outranking the US, Germany and Japan.

South Korea has become an increasingly attractive cooperation partner for German science and a new, dynamic form of cooperation has been forming between German and South Korean research. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the South Korean ministries work closely together.

South Korea currently ranks 14th among the world's strongest economies and is the third most important market for German products in Asia, edged out only by China and Japan. The country is a global leader in technology fields such as electronics, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and microchips.

There are many opportunities for German businesses in South Korea. Research collaborations can be particularly beneficial and smooth market entry in high-technology sectors, for example automotive manufacturing, shipbuilding, electronics, medical technology, biotechnology, environmental technology, plant engineering and the chemical industry.

Developing a 'creative economy' is one of the key targets of the government. One way of achieving this goal is by fostering innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, and Germany has become a role model in this respect. A disproportionately large part of South Korean research and development still takes place in the major industrial conglomerates, or chaebols, such as Samsung or LG.

Regular Exchange at Government Level

The internationalization of science and research plays an important role in South Korea. Research infrastructures are well-equipped and new funding programmes specifically target researchers from abroad in order to attract internationally acclaimed scientists and foreign investment. Strengthening vocational education and training is another explicit goal of the South Korean government and supported by the BMBF.

The agreement on scientific and technological cooperation signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Korea in 1986 is an important cornerstone of bilateral cooperation. Regular KGCCSIT - Korean German Cooperation Committee on Science and Industrial Technology meetings at the ministerial level have been taking place since 2007 in order to coordinate cooperation activities. On the South Korean side, this involves the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) as well as the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE).

A Broad Range of Programmes and Projects

Germany's research relations with South Korea have become much closer over the past years. The BMBF alone funded over 280 collaborative projects between German and South Korean researchers from 2007 to 2019. Cooperation focused on the life sciences, information and communication technologies, nanotechnology, materials research, physical and chemical technology, environmental research as well as marine and polar research.

Germany’s special interest in cooperating with South Korea is reflected among others by the fact that the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has been running KIST-Europe, a research institute in Saarbrücken under German law, since 1996.

South Korea is actively participating in calls for proposals under the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020, particularly in the fields of information and communication technologies (ICT), health, energy, climate change, and satellite navigation. However, research institutions from South Korea generally do not receive European funding. However, the Korean government provides co-financing on the entire range of topics. From 2014 to 2020, Horizon 2020 had 84 projects involving South Korea, 57 projects had German participation.

In addition, South Korea was admitted to the EU-programme EUREKA as an associated country in June 2009. Since July 2018 South Korea has the status of "EUREKA partner country". It is involved in a growing number of EUREKA projects and is also leading the project consortium in several cases.

South Korea is also a member of EUROSTARS. The 1 + 1 rule has been in effect in the EUROSTARS 2 program since 2014. For South Korea this means, that it can participate in a bilateral consortium if the other partner comes from a EUROSTARS member country. South Korea can also take over project management.

ADeKo – The German-Korean Alumni Network

The association of Korean Germany alumni (ADeKo) is a network of South Koreans who have studied or conducted research in Germany. ADeKo was established in 2008, including South Korean high-level government officials and industrial representatives who have been making great efforts to further strengthen the scientific, economic, political and cultural ties between the two countries. BMBF provided funding for the establishment of the ADeKo Network until 2015.