EU and South Korea discuss scientific co-operation

May 20, 2003

Brussels, 16 May 2003

Today in Brussels European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin met the South Korean Minister for science and technology, Mr. Ho Koon Park. They discussed the ways and means to enhance scientific and technological co-operation between the EU and South Korea. They addressed the possibility of negotiating a EU-South Korea scientific co-operation agreement, and the potential participation of South Korea in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) fusion energy project.

Beyond 3% of GDP

While the EU has recently committed to increasing its research expenditure to reach 3% of GDP by 2010, Korea has already reached this level after considerably increasing public and private efforts in research since the 1980s, even throughout its recent economic downturn.

Similar research priorities

Research efforts in both the EU and South Korea focus on similar priorities such as biotechnology, information technology, nano-technology, environmental and space technology. Like the EU, South Korea is concerned about a possible shortage of scientists and engineers in the coming decades, and is therefore planning a set of measures to address this issue.

A scientific co-operation agreement

Minister Park and Commissioner Busquin agreed on the potential for beneficial exchanges of best practice and reinforced co-operation. For this reason, they will examine the conditions for a scientific and technological co-operation agreement between South Korea and the EU. This would offer a general framework for co-operation and facilitate South Korean participation in the EU Research Framework Programme as well as European participation in Korean research programmes.

Science days

As a concrete initiative to foster mutual awareness, Commissioner Busquin agreed to Minister Park's proposal to hold a "Korean Science Day" in Europe and a reciprocal "European Science Day" in South Korea.

Fusion energy

Among the fields for co-operation discussed during the meeting, special emphasis was put on the negotiations concerning the ITER international nuclear fusion energy research project. The EU has a strong interest in this international project and is candidate for hosting it. Japan, Russia, Canada, and since recently the United States and China are also taking part in the negotiations. South Korea has not yet joined ITER discussions but it has an active fusion research programme and next month it expects to sign a co-operation agreement in this field with the EU.

In this context, Minister Park informed Commissioner Busquin of South Korea's keen interest in joining the ITER negotiations and sought the Commissioner's support in this matter. Mr. Busquin expressed his very positive attitude towards this welcome South Korean initiative.

DN: IP/03/707 Date: 19/05/2003

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