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The SFIA Ambassador Forum

[Report/ENG] [SFIA] 주한독일대사포럼 0328 ENG Summary
Date: 2022-04-06

The SFIA Ambassadors Forum 0328-2022

South Korea & Germany 
Partners in Challenging Neighborhoods

Speaker : HE Michael Reiffenstuel,German Ambassador to Korea 



The title of this forum, “Partners in Challenging Neighborhoods” couldn’t be better chosen as the Korean peninsula and Germany are both countries with powerful neighbors.

Especially, international community faces the most serious crisis since the Second World War due to Russian war aggression in the Ukraine. In my opinion, considering long-term interests, it will have tragic consequences for Russia as well as Ukraine. As President Putin said clearly that there would be no invasion of Ukraine before the war, there will be difficulties in the negotiation with Russia in the future because of his untrustworthy words.

European security architecture and all the principles we held together are threatened with this invasion. Germany believes that interdependence between countries becomes mutual benefit, and that stabilize international relations in long term basis. However, it seems that the President Putin is acting without regarding consequences. Given this, Russia seems to choose unilateralism over interdependence, which is hard to accept.

Germany took political action, swiftly and decisively imposing sanctions against Russia in various aspects. Even we announced spending package of one hundred billion Euro for defense. We had very clear principle since the Second World War that we don’t deliver weapons to conflict regions, therefore won’t support offensive weapons. Despite tough circumstances, it is appreciated that the Korean government took part in the sanction. It is faith in partners and showing strong will at the cost of economic price, which is very impressive.

Germany announced a new Indo-Pacific Guidelines one and half years ago, it includes a strategy to strengthen the cooperation with Korea. Now, China is watching international community’s reaction to Russia, with relation to Taiwan. According to our Indo-Pacific Guidelines, we are not directly against any country in the region. We would like to expand visibility and, at the same time, strengthen ties in India, Asia, and Pacific region. Regarding Australia, Korea, Japan and more, in the next four years, we, as an important partner who share common interests, will strengthen bilateral relations in politic, economic, scientific areas. Now relationship with Korea is ever more important, as well.

Germany and Korea both are industrialized countries with a large amount of energy consumption, thus it is difficult to achieve carbon neutrality. It is a great news that the President Moon committed to increase of NDC, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Germany has political, technical difficulties due to industrial structure, but will convert eighty percent of energy to renewables by 2030. I believe, just like Germany, Korea has difficult problems with regard to gas, coal, business environment and more.

With Indo-Pacific Guidelines, Germany faced criticism, but also sent naval vessels to Indo-Pacific region. Especially, we would like to strengthen partnership with Australia, Japan, Korea and more in relation to national security.


Attendees (From left): Cho Hyunsang, Lee Shinhwa, Yun Younggwan, Cha Miyoung, Gwon Ogon, Kim Hyojun, Ryu Wooik, Lee Insil, Park Taeho, Kim Wonjun, Cho Dongsung, Jeong Guhyun, Kim Myungja, HE Michael Reiffenstuel, Lee Honggu, Lee Inho, Shin Soojeong



Q. You mentioned Indo-Pacific Guidelines. According to these guidelines, how Germany will respond to China’s behavior? Does Germany have a plan to cooperate with Korean regarding semiconductor industry? I would also like to hear your opinion on the carbon border adjustment tax issue.

 A. Indo-Pacific Guidelines had a clear line even before finalization. One and half year after the announcement of the new guidelines, what has become clear is that we will strengthen military, security relationship with Korea. For China, Germany as well as Europe have deep economic ties with it. Particularly, with lesson learnt from Russia’s military aggression, we would like to seek diversify rather than give strategic importance on just one country. A carbon boarder tax is not meant to be protectionism, but to impose a carbon price on European countries. In this regard, it will be important to establish a common baseline for carbon prices and apply carbon mechanism.


Q. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seems to have reflective effect on European Union. Germany is a political and economic leader in the European Union, and with this, has decided to add two percent of GDP to defense spending, solidifying a leadership position.

 A. It is hard to thank the President Putin, but each member state of European Union is different so that internal reconciliation.


Q. In case of partnership between countries, Korea has difficult relation with Japan due to past history. In light of the relationship with between Germany and France, could you suggest ways to strengthen the relationship between Korea and Japan?

 A. Relationship between Korea and Japan are more like those between Germany and Poland, also very complex. It is hard to give any advice as Germany is the country which waged war. However, it is surprising that Korea, Japan, and China have difficulties in reconciliation despite many common interests. In my personal opinion, I think that they can cooperate with each other in academic and industrial field other than politics.


Q. I would like to as the ambassador for a piece of advice. An annual conference hosted by more than 50 universities was planned to be held in June on the border between Ukraine and Russia, but the has made it uncertain. Representatives of European universities strongly insisted that it should be cancelled to penalize Russia, and representatives of U.S. and Asian universities are against it. Which position is proper?

A. I am not in any position to give advice, but international sanctions are not directed against Russian people, but against Russian government. The reason for Europe being outrageous and emotional that it is close to the region and the provocation is very sudden and unjust. In my opinion, severing international relations with Russian society is not the goal in the long run.


Q. As Germany is the fourth largest export country in the world, Korea is a very small market from the German point of view. What is the reason that you want to strengthen relationship with Korea? Could you tell us about the European Union’s military and diplomatic strategy.

 A. Korea is a big market for Germany’s automotive industry. However, compared to the international community, Korea has relatively strict regulations and standards and put emphasis on the individual responsibilities of CEO, which makes it difficult for foreign companies. Also, as foreigners from Europe, sometimes we feel a little bit discriminated.  As for the European Union’s military policy, Europe has long been trying to strengthen its defense, and further accelerated this due to Russia’s provocation. However, this is an internal policy not against NATO.


Q. When you first came to Korea, how was your impression of Korean society from your expectations?

 A. It was my first time to come to Korea, and my first impression were very different from what I expected. In my experience, I have never had unfriendly eyes on me, it is the opposite. I also met an old lady who seemed not to foreign language but was trying to kindly provide way.

Comment. Russia and Ukraine are not members of ICC, but when Russia forcibly occupied Crimea four years ago, 41 countries, including Germany, had asked ICC to investigate war crimes. A friend country that shares the same ideas and values, I hope Korea and Germany will move forward together to uphold international communities’ rules and norms, and to protect human rights.


Q. Recently, a proposal to invite Korea as G7 member, but I heard that Germany had some reservation about it. I would like to hear your thoughts on future proposal like this.

 A. As far as I know, Germany has never opposed Korea’s participation in the G7. I am well-aware that Korea has great interest in such organizations. Nothing has been decided exactly, but Germany always take prudence. Korea should not be disappointed even if you are not successful in joining an official member, should set a good precedent for being invited to G7 meeting.


Q. Korea is not only a partner with the U.S., but also competing each other in some ways. Germany, as a high tech country, seems to have similar dilemma of cooperation and competition. Could you give any wise advice on how to navigate this situation?

A. While Germany also cooperates with other countries in various fields, but compete with in various fields as well. It is normal for industrialized country. However, It is important that we adhere to the principles we have set ourselves.


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