Successful coexistenceToday is the 15th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Korea and China. Since the two countries normalized ties following the end of the Cold War era, Korea-China relations have rapidly improved in every sphere.
In 1992, when the ties were normalized, the volume of trade between the two countries was $6.3 billion. By last year this figure had surged to $118 billion and it is expected to reach $150 billion this year. China has already replaced the United States as Korea’s biggest trade partner. China is Korea’s biggest importer and Korea invests in China more than in any other country.
Some 43,000 Korean companies now have operations in China. A tremendous amount of exchange takes place in tourism, culture and academia.
In 1992, the number of Korean travelers going to China was 130,000 but last year the figure was 4,820,000, or 37 times greater than in 1992. Korea sends tourists and students to China more than to any other country.
Korean pop culture is popular in China and some 100 million Chinese watch Korean TV dramas every day. As seen in the six-party talks aimed at resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue, Korea and China have developed a cooperative political partnership.
However, not everything is bright in Korea-China relations. As China has risen as a super economy, Korea has lost ground.
The technological gap between the two countries is narrowing, so in many industries the two countries have moved from being complementary countries to fierce competitors.
There is a possibility of another trade dispute, just like the garlic dispute. When China attempted to glorify its ancient history by distorting Korea’s, Korea-China relations faced a crisis. There are differences of opinion between the two countries about how to handle North Korean defectors.
As China expands its power there are increasing concerns that Korea might fall under China’s influence. Some worry that China might go through political insecurity as its economic development accelerates.
As a way to distribute risks, it is important for Korea to keep friendly relations with China while treasuring its alliance with the United States.
Both Korea and China are pursuing peace, security and prosperity in Northeast Asia. Korea and China have grown closer than ever. But as we mark the 15th anniversary of normalization, the two countries must find ways to coexist successfully in the future.