Korea-EU Digital Partnership

Digital Partnership between the European Union and the Republic of Korea

On 28 November 2022, a new Digital Partnership between the European Union and the Republic of Korea was launched.

What is the Digital Partnership?

This future-oriented partnership will strengthen the cooperation between trusted and technologically advanced partners in the digital area that is crucial for the sustainable advance of European and Korean economies, and for our trade and investment ties.

It will foster joint work on semiconductors, next generation mobile networks, quantum and High-Performance Computing, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, platforms, data and skills.

"In the framework of this partnership, and sharing the recognition that we should join efforts so that digital innovation pursues universal values such as freedom and human rights of the global citizen, we are also planning to operate a consultation mechanism between Korea and the EU to discuss ways to strengthen solidarity for the freedom of digital citizens." - Joint Statement by President von der Leyen and President Yoon on the EU-Republic of Korea Digital Partnership

What is the aim of the Digital Partnership?

Partnering to promote a common vision for a digital society

  • It recognises the importance of information and communication technologies for economic and social development
  • It will respond to the implications of emerging technologies on people, industry and society
  • It will develop and advance technologies, policies, and research cooperation in a reciprocal manner
  • It commits to a positive and human-centric vision of the digital economy and society
  • It aims to ensure a clear, transparent and predictable environment for businesses and citizens

The ROK-EU Digital Partnership intends to provide an overarching framework for advanced cooperation across the full spectrum of digital issues including infrastructures, skills, digital transformation of businesses, and digitalisation of public services, as well as digital economy and trade. It intends to strengthen consumer and business trust by respecting a high level of privacy and security.

How the Digital Partnership will achieve its goals?

Both sides intend to comprehensively discuss various economic and societal issues driven by digital transformation and intend to establish an annual meeting at ministerial level, the “Digital Partnership Council”.

Strong leadership for an effective governance of the Digital Partnership

The Council is headed by the Korean Minister of Science and ICT and the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) of the Republic of Korea and the European Commission services (DG CONNECT), acting as the Digital Partnership secretariat, would then coordinate activities on their respective sides, involving all relevant services.

The main contributors of the Council on the Korean side are the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). Other ROK government ministries and Members of the College of the European Commission will have the possibility to participate in the Council Meeting, when necessary and appropriate.

The Council is expected to meet alternately on each side on a yearly basis. Both sides may identify areas of mutual interest and cooperation tasks, and review progress on deliverables at each Digital Partnership Council Meeting.

Both sides, upon agreement, may initiate and terminate cooperation tasks and related activities in new areas through amendments or annexes to the Digital Partnership.

The Digital Partnership Council is expected to prepare deliverables in the areas identified, building on existing cooperation mechanisms such as the bilateral High Level Policy Dialogue on the Digital Economy, the FTA Committees, the ROK-EU Joint Committee, the Joint Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation established under the S&T Agreement, and dedicated expert workshops.

It aims to leverage existing cooperation activities, not to replace them, and it should not result in additional bureaucratic burdens or heavy coordination costs.

The Digital Partnership Council should be provided with clear progress reports by its secretariat in order to take stock of the progress achieved and provide strategic guidance on the priorities and next steps.

Both sides can operate existing digital cooperation channels without prejudice to the Digital Partnership Council.

These various streams should be integrated in the yearly cycle of the Partnership, so that synergies can be clearly identified and reinforced between the various areas, and service-level or sector-specific discussions can form a holistic political dialogue about digital technologies, policies and exchanges in a cost-effective way.

Regular stakeholder participation and involvement are key to its success, and exchanges are expected to be organised as part of existing cooperation mechanisms and through joint Digital Partnership dialogues with stakeholders.

EU Member States should be closely involved in the implementation of this Digital Partnership, seeking complementarity between actions at EU level and at Member States’ level.

  • The Digital Partnership may be amended by mutual written consent of both sides, and any amendment of the Digital Partnership is to start on a date jointly decided upon by the sides.
  • Any differences arising from the interpretation or application of the Digital Partnership should be resolved promptly and amicably through consultations between the sides and should not be referred to any national or international tribunal or third party for settlement.
  • Intellectual property rights concerning any collaborative activities under this Digital Partnership should be protected in accordance with both sides’ applicable national laws and regulations. 
  • Each side should take all lawful steps available to it to ensure all confidential information is used only for the purpose it was provided or generated.
  • The Digital Partnership is not legally binding and is not intended to supersede national law or international obligations by which the sides are bound. It will be carried out within the framework of the respective laws and regulations of each side and it will be implemented on the basis of autonomous cooperation. 
  • It does not have any financial implications on either side. Each side will bear its own costs arising from the implementation of this Digital Partnership.

Joint Actions

Achieving joint results in priority areas of enhanced digital cooperation

The ROK-EU Digital Partnership aims at delivering concrete joint results. Both sides have identified the following initial set of joint actions for 11 priority areas to implement Digital Partnerships.

On the basis of their long-standing cooperation in the field of digital technologies, both sides intend to build upon the Joint Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in ICT and 5G, signed between the two sides in June 2014, and make full use of instruments such as the Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and Korea’s national R&D projects to continuously seek to provide collaborative research opportunities in cutting-edge technologies such as AI, cybersecurity, semiconductors, HPC, quantum technology, 5G and 6G, digital standardisation, and other emerging areas of technology.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides can support ROK-EU cooperative activities on digital technology in connection with ROK national research and development projects and the EU’s Horizon Europe.
  • The Digital Partnership may offer the opportunity to carry out further common research activities, including through joint undertakings on industrial issues.

Both sides intend to strengthen the transparency and the resilience of the global semiconductor supply chain and reinforce cooperation to advance R&I for the next generation of semiconductors, noting the importance of semiconductors for the economy and society and the significance of the production and supply of semiconductors. Both sides recall commitments in the competition chapter of the FTA, in particular with regard to ensuring transparency in the area of subsidies and avoiding distortions of competition caused by subsidies.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides intend to establish a ROK-EU forum for semiconductor researchers to discuss the latest technologies and trends in highly complementary areas such as advanced semiconductor processes, innovative power electronics, and heterogeneous integration.
  • Both sides should explore cooperation on identifying gaps and potential disruptions to the global supply chain including through early warning systems. They intend to work towards possibilities for the exchange of information on relevant industrial policies and coordination of export controls among the relevant authorities.
  • Both sides intend to explore the synergies for international standardisation of trusted chips and chip security. Both sides should strive to extend this joint exercise within a multilateral initiative.

Both sides share a commitment to strengthen cooperation in High Performance Computing (HPC) and Quantum technologies by promoting collaborative research, facilitating access to the respective HPC and quantum computing infrastructures, promoting the joint development of HPC and/or quantum computing applications of societal relevance, encouraging talent exchanges for researchers, professionals in the field and students, and cooperating in the definition of international standards.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides intend to promote the utilisation of their respective HPC and quantum infrastructures by facilitating access to the infrastructures for high-level researchers, engineers and students between ROK and the EU. Both sides intend to promote cooperation on the development of HPC and/or quantum computing applications of common interest.
  • Both sides could develop collaborative research activities on HPC processor technologies, high performance computing, quantum sensing, quantum communication (quantum key distribution, quantum internet) and quantum materials, components and equipment.
  • Both sides intend to enhance cooperation on the supply chain (as regards quantum materials, components and equipment), promote exchanges between high-level quantum researchers, engineers and students (e.g. through seminars or forums between learned societies) and strengthen cooperation in international standardisation (e.g. in ETSI or ITU-T).
  • Both sides intend to actively promote the signing of a cooperative Memorandum of Understanding between private sector players in both ROK and the EU. To promote practical cooperation in the area of quantum technology, both sides should establish a working group composed of quantum technology experts within the first quarter of 2023.

Both sides note the increased importance of cooperation in cybersecurity as a lesson learned from the pandemic and current international developments. Both sides intend to make international cybersecurity cooperation more effective.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides are expected to explore ways to increase sharing of information on cybersecurity threats and on other areas where exchanges are considered valuable for both sides. Both sides intend to cooperate in capacity building for third countries with the involvement of the private sector. Such cooperation may include signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between MSIT and ENISA.

Both sides intend to work towards a common vision on Beyond 5G/6G ecosystems, including applications, standards, use cases, interoperability and sustainability. Both sides endeavour to conduct collaborative research on the development and standardisation of 6G and 6G integrated services, information exchange on 6G spectrum needs, promotion of private sector cooperation in fostering the ecosystem (e.g. 6G-enabled cross industry convergence) and promotion of active exchanges through international events.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides intend to continue their cooperation in Research & Innovation. The main vehicle for such cooperation would be the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) on the EU side and the Institute of Information and Communications Technology Planning and Evaluation(IITP) on the ROK side.
  • Both sides intend to exchange views on a 6G roadmap and future 6G spectrum needs through a structured dialogue organised by related organisations of the two sides.
  • Both sides intend to discuss and exchange positions at future World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) through regular dialogue.
  • Both sides intend to regularly attend relevant 6G events held by each side through the invitation of public servants, researchers, industry and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Both sides intend to deepen technological cooperation with a view to reaching the goal of one single global 6G standard to be developed by 3GPP.

Both sides acknowledge that the expansion of digital infrastructure, digital capacity building, and the development of technologies that take account of the needs of the vulnerable, such as persons with disabilities, are key to building an inclusive digital society. Both sides intend to promote cooperative activities such as encouraging participation in each side’s training programmes and researcher exchanges.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides could initiate an exchange programme for young researchers in the area of ICT.
  • Korean schools and Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions could join the EU “CodeWeek”, which is an EU grass-roots initiative to help young people to master the basics of coding and computational thinking.

Both sides aim to promote the development and global use of trustworthy and human-centric Artificial Intelligence by continuing discussions and cooperating on AI Principles and their application in their respective jurisdictions.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides intend to share information on their laws and systems aimed at realising trustworthy AI, and can discuss their respective definitions, use cases, high risk AI applications, and response measures.
  • Both sides intend to facilitate cooperation to coordinate their positions on AI governance in the relevant fora (e.g. GPAI, OECD) as well as international standardisation bodies.

Both sides recognise each other as key partners in responding to the growing online and digital platform economy, creating an online and digital platform ecosystem with a harmonious balance between innovation, safety, and fairness. Online and digital platforms should remain safe for citizens, and contestable by businesses.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides should deepen their cooperation and information sharing in the area of platform policies, to maximise the positive and minimise the negative impacts of online and digital platforms with the aim of securing safety for citizens, and fairness and contestability for businesses in the online and digital platform economy. Such cooperation may include case studies, market research, joint academic activities and collaborative research, and the development of non-regulatory best practices, for example on algorithmic transparency. Ultimately, the two sides may explore more structural enforcement cooperation of their respective online and digital platform regulations, while preserving the regulatory autonomy of each side.
  • Both sides should continue to promote the principles in the Declaration for the Future of the Internet and showcase how they live up to the vision of a global, open, free, interoperable, reliable, secure Internet and an online and digital platform model that deepens the global respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Both sides intend to share information on data-related laws and systems, and, building on the existing adequacy dialogue, further work towards identifying commonalities, complementarities and elements of convergence between existing regulatory approaches and instruments. Both sides envisage to cooperate on matters related to data free flow with trust while preserving their regulatory autonomy.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides recognise that ensuring the free and trusted flow of data across borders in compliance with data protection rules and other public policy objectives, including public security and public order, is fundamental to unlock the benefits of digitalisation. Both sides agree to cooperate on supporting international data flows with trust including for instance by promoting the convergence of data protection rules, building upon the existing adequacy decision for the transfer of personal data, and to explore ways to develop and implement data policies aiming to foster the data economy.

Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides intend to collaborate on digital identity solutions. Both sides endeavour to work on the basis of use cases and pilot projects towards interoperability of their trust services such as electronic signatures.

Both sides share the necessity to deepen discussions on digital trade and to seek a cooperative relationship regarding digital trade facilitation, to be reflected in a set of digital trade principles. Both sides aim at cooperating and coordinating their approaches regarding digital protectionist measures and trends around the world, which have a detrimental impact on trade and investment flows.


Initial joint actions for this area: 

  • Both sides should deepen their understanding of digital trade to be reflected in a set of digital trade principles building on the ROK-EU FTA and covering issues relevant for digital trade such as, inter alia, paperless trading, electronic invoicing, electronic transactions framework and digital identities, online consumer protection, the protection of source code, and cryptography.
  • Both sides intend to discuss and, when relevant, share information, with a view to coordinating their approaches regarding digital protectionist measures adopted by third countries.

Furthermore, both sides intend to examine how they can cooperate on respective initiatives to promote SME’s digital transformation. Both sides intend to exchange information on guidelines and best practices on how the digitalisation of industry, including SMEs, can support the sustainability targets of companies and accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

Both sides can pursue any other form or shape of cooperation on all topics and issues that have been discussed as areas of cooperation and deliverables at the Korea-EU Digital Partnership Council. This list of priority topics would be reviewed and updated on a regular basis through the Korea-EU Digital Partnership Council.


The Republic of Korea and the European Union see the joint benefits of forming a Digital Partnership with the view to support citizens on both sides to learn, work, explore, and fulfil ambitions in the digital society, to empower businesses to deploy new technologies and innovate, and to reinforce digital trade links between the Republic of Korea and the European Union.

The Republic of Korea (ROK)-EU Summit conclusions of 30 June 2020 called for strengthening bilateral cooperation in responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and harnessing human-centric digitalisation. In a Leaders’ meeting between the ROK and the EU on 29 June 2022, it was agreed that both sides would expand the scope of bilateral cooperation by accelerating work towards a Digital Partnership.

The 18th EU-ROK Joint Committee on 28 June 2022 called for closer cooperation on economic security, notably on the resilience of supply chains, and explored the potential cooperation agenda for the digital realm under a future ROK-EU Digital Partnership.

Both sides have established close links through a Strategic Partnership based on the revised Framework Agreement, the ROK-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and long-standing cooperation in the digital as well as in the research policy sphere in line with the Agreement on the Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the European Community and the Government of the Republic of Korea (the S&T Agreement – 2006).

The new Korean government announced 120 national policy tasks on 26 July 2022, with goals to build a dynamic economy led by the private sector, a society where everyone is happy, and a country that contributes to global prosperity. As part of its efforts to facilitate digital transformation and innovation-led growth, the Korean government sought to promote cooperation with the EU in securing strategic technologies and R&D collaboration.

The Korean President outlined his vision for a new digital order that digital citizens should follow through the New York Initiative on 21 September 2022, aimed at harnessing digital technologies to realize the universal values of humanity, namely, freedom, solidarity, and human rights. As part of the policy measures to implement the Initiative, the Korean government unveiled the Korean Digital Strategy on 28 September 2022, that sets out a masterplan to strengthen digital competitiveness in sectors including AI and data, and to advance structural innovation across all domains of the economy, society and government through digital transformation led by the private sector.

The Joint Communication of 16 September 2021 from the Commission and the High Representative on the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy calls on the EU to deepen its engagement with partners in the Indo-Pacific to respond to emerging dynamics that are affecting regional stability.

The European Commission’s 2030 Digital Compass Communication calls upon the EU to promote a human-centred digital agenda on the global stage and to form international Partnerships for the Digital Decade with like-minded partners. In addition, the Joint Communication of 01 December 2021 on the Global Gateway presents the EU’s investment strategy for connectivity infrastructure including in the digital sector.

The European Commission’s Trade Policy Review Communication calls upon the EU to support the recovery and fundamental transformation of the EU economy in line with its green and digital objectives.

The ‘Joint Declaration by the European Union, Australia, Comoros, India, Japan, Mauritius, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka on privacy and the protection of personal data’, which was endorsed at the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in Paris on 22 February 2022, expresses a common vision of a human-centric approach to the digital transformation, where the effective protection of personal data plays a crucial role and underlines the importance of data free flow with trust as key to harnessing the opportunities of the digital economy.