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German envoy calls for enhanced security cooperation with S. Korea
Touting 140 years of diplomatic ties, Schmidt says German interest in Korea still growingBy Sanjay Kumar
Published : Nov. 28, 2023 - 14:36
German Ambassador to Korea Georg Schmidt called for enhanced security cooperation, highlighting the interconnectedness of security challenges in Asia and Europe, in an interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday.
Though Germany and South Korea are located far from one another, both face common challenges of Russia forging military transactions with North Korea, and this is something the two countries should work together to resolve global tensions, the ambassador emphasized.
“Many people speculate that it was Russian technology and Russian assistance that helped the North Koreans launch their satellite, which is something we condemn together with the other G7 members.
"We can see now, with the latest transactions between Russia and North Korea, how they are linked. ... We strongly condemn it from the EU and Brussels,” he said.
The ambassador urged closer cooperation between the two countries beyond traditional hardware aspects to include software, cybersecurity and the threats posed by artificial intelligence.
“It is quite obvious that Germany and Korea (should) cooperate more in stronger security terms."
Schmidt also addressed Germany's active role in UN sanctions against North Korea, noting the deployment of a German Navy ship to participate in the enforcement of these sanctions.
The deployment of the German frigate to Korea is an example of Berlin's symbolic gesture of upholding international law, he added.
Germany and Korea share common national security strategies on climate change and carbon neutrality, he said, urging joint efforts to achieve the objectives of COP28. He pointed to the significance of technology and investment collaboration to benefit future generations.
"Climate change is more than just a technical challenge,” he said, acknowledging societal challenges, especially demographic changes, and social policy in addressing disparities. "Climate change also has to do with social innovation.”
Schmidt encouraged open discussions between the two nations on effective social policy measures, including the integration of Korean and foreign communities. He cited the example of engaging citizens in democratic processes to convince them of the benefits of climate-related initiatives, such as involving local communities in wind power projects.
He also recognized the role of private companies while emphasizing the need to balance security and resilience aspects, particularly in critical sectors and sensitive technology. He proposed an exchange of details between Germany and Korea to refine the criteria for such investments.
140 years of friendship and counting
Even when West Germany was not yet a UN member state, Germany actively supported Korea, sending medical teams and engaging in collaborative efforts, he said.
In 1954, the German Red Cross built a 250-bed hospital in Busan, providing 117 German medical professionals a year for the following six years.
Schmidt also recalled December 1963, when the first bilateral agreement was established to facilitate the arrival of Korean nurses in West Germany, contributing to its rebuilding.
“It was a win-win situation, and many of these Korean nurses and later also the miners stayed on, and they have become a part of German society,” said Schmidt.
In the 1970s and 1980s, over 10,000 Korean nurses and 8,000 Korean miners went to Germany, contributing to both countries' economic growth.
Germany needed mining workers in the 1960s to overcome a labor shortage, which led to the signing of a temporary employment plan for Korean miners dispatched to West Germany.
The agreement is believed to be the first signed by Germany with a country outside Europe. The two countries established consular relations in 1954 and upgraded to full diplomatic relations in 1957.
Looking ahead, Schmidt expressed optimism about the future of German-Korean relations. The ambassador pointed out that Germans and Koreans, including lawyers, students, engineers, musicians and more, are vital in promoting bilateral exchanges.
“Many young Germans want to learn Korean, want to learn more about Korea, and the importance of Korea has risen a lot,” he said, emphasizing the increasing importance of Korea as a key partner in various aspects.
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