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Korea, UK to adopt Downing Street Accord to elevate ties: presidential office

Korea-UK enterprises to sign W270b in memoranda of understanding

Nov. 21, 2023 - 10:08 By Son Ji-hyoung
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from left) shakes hands with King Charles III as he joins an official welcome ceremony held at Horse Guards Parade in London on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea and the United Kingdom are poised to adopt a new bilateral framework called the Downing Street Accord, during the upcoming summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Yoon's office said Tuesday.

The adoption of the new agreement will upgrade the relations between the two countries to a "global strategic partnership" from a "broad and creative partnership," emphasizing that the two countries will jointly address geopolitical risks as they mark their 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

The framework was named after the venue for the summit, 10 Downing Street, in London, scheduled on Wednesday.

Under the framework, Seoul and London will jointly express their commitment to addressing North Korea's nuclear threats, as well as global areas of concern such as the Indo-Pacific region, along with the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, according to the presidential office.

The office added that South Korea and the UK will also agree to work hand-in-hand within multilateral frameworks such as the Group of Seven, Group of 20 and the United Nations Security Council.

South Korea is a member of the G20. As the world's 13th-largest economy, it will serve as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for two years until 2025. South Korea is not an official member of the Group of Seven, but its president has attended the gathering as a guest four times since 2008.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon-hee disembark from an aircraft after landing at London Stansted Airport. (AFP-Yonhap)


Moreover, Seoul and London are also poised to sign pacts to enhance their joint strategic response to cybersecurity threats and boost trade in the defense industry. More joint military exercises and joint maritime patrols to prevent North Korea from evading sanctions by the UN Security Council will also be discussed, according to Yoon's office, though it did not elaborate further on the details.

Six memoranda of understanding regarding the partnership between the two governments will be signed, including one in the semiconductor chip industry in a bid to enhance the international supply chain of strategic assets to keep them afloat in the global chips war.

The UK, home to mobile processor chip design powerhouse Arm, announced earlier in May a 1 billion pound ($1.25 billion) investment commitment in the next decade to shore up its domestic semiconductor industry. South Korea is home to semiconductor chip giants Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, dedicated to memory chips and the foundry business.

The other memoranda will revolve around the restart of the free trade talks, bilateral cooperation in clean energy, nuclear energy, offshore wind energy and the defense industry.

"The adoption of the Downing Street Accord and elevation of the relationship to a 'global strategic partnership' will lay a solid foundation for the bilateral cooperation that has lasted for 140 years and a leap forward in the relationship for the future generation of the two countries," Yoon's office said in a statement.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a meeting with overseas Koreans in London on Monday. (Yonhap)

Yoon embarked on a four-day state visit to the UK on Monday as he and first lady Kim Keon Hee arrived at Stansted Airport in London in the afternoon.

Yoon said in a meeting with some 200 overseas Koreans in London on Monday that the state visit will "establish a new system for cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and the defense industry," and at the same time "expand the scope of bilateral cooperation to various fields of cutting-edge science technology, such as artificial intelligence, nuclear energy, biotechnology, space, semiconductors and clean energy."

He added that talks would soon start to renegotiate the free trade agreement between Korea and the UK to embolden bilateral ties over the industrial supply chain.

Some 40,000 overseas Koreans are estimated to live in the UK, a significant increase compared to the late 1950s when the number stood at below 50, according to Yoon. There are 23 Korean language institutions across the UK, Yoon added.

The presidential couple was to be greeted by King Charles III during a ceremonial welcome in London on Tuesday. After a lunch meeting at Buckingham Palace, Yoon was scheduled to visit the Korean War Memorial in London and the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday. Yoon will be given a state banquet at Buckingham Palace.

On the second day of the state visit, the presidential office confirmed Yoon will attend a business forum Wednesday, where some 200 entrepreneurs from South Korean and UK firms combined will gather to sign 31 memoranda of understanding worth 270 billion won ($208.9 million).

Yoon is the first foreign head of state to be invited for a state visit since Charles' coronation in May. Yoon is to depart London to head to Paris Thursday.