SEOUL -- The bilateral relationship between South Korea and Peru, established in 1963, significantly advanced in 2011 when the two countries' Free Trade Agreement took effect. South Korea, which was Peru's 11th largest trade partner in 2010, climbed to the fifth position in 2021. Peru aims to expand cooperation with South Korea through Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, an economic forum currently chaired by Peru and slated for South Korea's leadership in 2024.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), involving 21 member countries in the Asia-Pacific region, is designed to collaboratively pursue economic growth and prosperity. The hosting nation is visited by high-ranking officials from partner countries. During an APEC summit meeting held in San Francisco in November 2023, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol reached a consensus with Peruvian President Dina Boluarte to enhance cooperation in the fields of digital solutions and artificial intelligence.
"APEC is important for us because it is not only a multilateral platform but it's also a very important link between Peru and South Korea," Paul Duclos, the Peruvian Ambassador to South Korea, told Aju Korea Daily on January 23. "It's something that we both share," the diplomat said, adding that the two countries can address major global challenges through bilateral agendas through APEC events.
At this year's APEC summit, Peru plans to propose environmentally focused initiatives such as the development of a green hydrogen ecosystem. Green hydrogen is a fossil fuel-free type of hydrogen produced through electrolysis, splitting water to release only hydrogen and oxygen. Duclos said: "We have been working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and with the Asia Pacific Energy Research Center to establish guidelines for an eventual roadmap for the implementation of green hydrogen in the Asia Pacific as a renewable energy alternative."
The Peruvian envoy also shared his vision for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a free trade agreement involving all APEC member countries. During the interview, Duclos emphasized the significance of maintaining a long-term global vision, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
After joining APEC in 1998, Peru has signed FTAs with economic behemoths such as the United States, China, and the European Union. Signing the trade agreement with South Korea in 2010 significantly contributed to increasing the two countries' trade volume. According to data released by KOTRA, a state-run trade promotion agency, the two nations' trade volume, which stood at about $2 billion in 2010, skyrocketed to $3.6 billion in 2022.
South Korea mainly exports manufactured products such as passenger cars and car parts, and imports Peru's natural gases, minerals, and copper. South Korea's main exports to Peru in 2022 were passenger cars, with a year-on-year increase of 88.2 percent, totaling $186 million. Some 150 South Korean companies, including SK Innovation, a petrochemical company, and major domestic builder Hyundai Engineering and Construction, are involved in investments in Peru. Duclos aspires to expand the current relationships, concentrated on government and business, to the private sector.
"Maybe from 10 years ago, Peruvians have discovered South Korea as a source of inspiration because of its cultural power in K-food and TV series," the envoy said, highlighting the significant impact of K-pop on the younger generations in Peru. He mentioned that 12 Peruvian teenagers are undergoing training at the World K-pop Center, a training facility that nurtures trainees from 32 nations. After completing intensive training in Seoul, selected Peruvian trainees will debut as artists with K-pop features.
The Peruvian embassy has hosted cultural events to bridge the gap with South Koreans. The embassy also plans to invite Peruvian singer Lenin Tamayo to South Korea to show how K-pop has affected Peruvian artists. The ambassador said the 23-year-old artist sings in an indigenous language "Quechua" but often incorporates K-pop elements when performing on stage.
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