Netherlands receives President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea: ‘Innovation and a focus on exports – a good fit!’


On 12 and 13 December, King Willem-Alexander received the South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, during his state visit to the Netherlands. Peter van der Vliet is the Dutch ambassador in the Korean capital of Seoul. He talks about the relationship between our two countries and why this state visit is such a good foundation for future growth on both sides. ‘We're both innovative and export-oriented - and that’s a good fit!’

Enlarge image Peter van der Vliet
Peter van der Vliet.

Peter has been ambassador to the Republic of Korea since the summer of 2023. He noticed the country's dynamic environment as soon as he arrived. ‘It’s an extremely energetic place. The Koreans are very active in the global marketplace and are focused on exports.’ That fact alone means that the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands share mutual interests, says the ambassador. ‘The Republic of Korea exports to the Netherlands total around €6 billion a year, and our exports to Korea are worth around €10 billion. And there are some 150 Korean companies operating in the Netherlands.’


Much of Dutch trade with South Korea is linked to the semiconductor industry. Peter explains: ‘It’s become a very important industry for everyone. These days you can’t do much at all without chips. The Netherlands is in the unique position of being a producer of machines for manufacturing chips, while South Korea is skilled at producing the chips themselves. In many ways, developments in semiconductors will help shape the futures of societies around the globe. And both of our countries are well aware of this.’

Even so, the links between the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea go further than cooperation on semiconductors, says Peter. ‘Our relations are both broad and deep, and we exchange knowledge in many other areas as well. Green agriculture, for example, and renewable energy.’ With this in mind, sharing knowledge is a major focus during the state visit. Peter: ‘For one thing, the CEO of Samsung will take part in a roundtable discussion. King Willem-Alexander and President Yoon will also join as the roundtable concludes. And a number of memorandums of understanding are due to be signed, confirming policy agreements in writing. All in all, both sides are keen to further intensify relations.’

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Image: ©Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken / Phil Nijhuis
REAIM 2023 in The Hague.


In the years ahead this intensification will include cooperation on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). Our two countries are the consecutive organisers of REAIM, a major conference on the use of AI in the military domain. Peter explains: ‘That's a perfect example of our effective cooperation with the Koreans. We hosted REAIM in 2023 and are helping the Koreans organise the next conference, which we will also co-host. And that will lead to further cooperation on the use of AI in the military domain. The Netherlands and the Republic of Korea are taking the lead on this issue and we're consciously working to put it on the international agenda.’

Squid Game and Miffy

Economic interests, exports, even military cooperation: isn’t it unusual for two countries with such seemingly divergent cultures to work together so closely? Peter doesn’t think so. ‘Interest in Korean culture has exploded in recent years, and the Netherlands is no exception. Just look at the Netflix series Squid Game, and K-pop, high quality TV and music that appeal to wide audiences.’ He continues: ‘At the same time, people in South Korea are very interested in Dutch architecture and in our creative designers. And they’re big fans of Miffy too!’

Back to the state visit. Peter sums up: ‘The Netherlands and South Korea are two innovative countries where knowledge and technology rule. We’re both high-tech societies – Korea perhaps even more so than the Netherlands – and that’s why we're so interested in each other. And this visit by President Yoon and the Korean delegation was a good start towards intensifying our relations even further.’

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