Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK, also known as South Korea) are close partners with a strong bilateral relationship underpinned by trade, shared regional strategic interests, and strong people-to-people links. The ROK is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner and fourth-largest export market. Australia and the ROK share key security interests in North Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific, with peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and a stable, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific critical to the economic prosperity and security of both countries.
In 2020, the ROK was Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner, accounting for A$34.9 billion representing 4.4 per cent of all of Australia’s international trade and Australia’s fourth-largest export market that accounts for about $25.2 billion. The trade relationship is complementary, with Australia’s major exports including iron ore, coal, natural gas and beef, and its major imports from the ROK including cars and refined petroleum.
On 13th December 2021, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed a $717m defence deal. The deal is worth 1 billion Australian dollars and was signed during a four-day visit by President Moon to Canberra. The South Korean president is the first foreign leader to visit Australia since the pandemic began. The new defence deal will see South Korean defence company Hanwha provide the Australian army with artillery weapons, supply vehicles and radars.
President Moon Jae-in during the meeting stated “It’s an important further chapter in the defence industry story for Australia as we continue to build our sovereign capability and Korea is an important partner in that journey – both in our security arrangements, but also in the building of our sovereign capability in defence manufacturing.”
It is the largest defence contract struck between Australia and an Asian nation and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Australia and China. This deal would lead to the creation of 300 jobs in Australia. This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Further, the leaders have agreed to work together on developing clean energy technologies, including hydrogen, and on facilitating the supply of critical minerals, which Australia has in abundance.