TALLINN - Estonian President Alar Karis emphasized the importance of cooperation during a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul, noting that South Korea is an important partner for Estonia in Asia, one that shares the same values, and with whom Estonia wishes to strengthen economic ties and defense cooperation.
"Estonia and South Korea share a similar worldview and history has taught both of us that international order must be based on commonly agreed rules, not on military threats. The people of our two republics understand the challenges of living next to an autocratic neighbor; the cooperation of totalitarian states jeopardizes the security of both of us," the Estonian president said.
Discussing security in the Euro-Atlantic region and the Pacific region surrounding South Korea, Karis stated that the two are interconnected.
"Russia's moves to expand military cooperation with North Korea, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, damage the security of our regions. For Europe, the war in Ukraine and its outcome have fundamental implications, and its effects also extend to more distant countries," he said.
The Estonian head of state expressed concern about North Korea's provocative actions and condemned the regime's ongoing missile tests and nuclear threats.
Karis highlighted South Korea's unwavering support for Ukraine.
"We need to find ways to further support Ukraine, both in military and humanitarian terms," he added. "We need to talk about holding responsible all those who have committed crimes in Ukraine, including the crime of aggression."
The presidents of Estonia and South Korea also discussed developments in North Korea, the Middle East, and cooperation on cyber issues.
"We must stand against North Korea's malicious activities in cyberspace," Karis said.
On bilateral relations, Karis stated that good relations with South Korea are important, as evidenced by the opening of the Estonian embassy and business hub in Seoul.
"This further strengthens the political friendships and economic ties between our countries, deepening cooperation in culture, education, and national defense. You can never have too many like-minded friends, especially in challenging times, which the current security situation certainly is," he said.
The South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, confirmed the country's desire to expedite the process of opening a embassy in Tallinn and provided a detailed overview of South Korea's aspirations to host the World Expo 2030 in Busan and the innovative ideas regarding this.
Karis expressed hope that the opening of the embassy would boost business contacts between the two countries.
"The interest of Estonian companies in doing business with South Korean partners is already evident from the business delegation accompanying this visit. Several of our entrepreneurs have already found business partners here," he said.
"We have a robust ecosystem of digital and deep-tech startups. There are also opportunities for cooperation in the production of environmentally friendly hydrogen," he added.
Karis also extended an invitation to his Korean counterpart to visit Estonia.
In the presence of the heads of state, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Estonian Ambassador Sten Schwede signed an Estonia-Korea air service agreement.
On Thursday, Karis also familiarized himself with the operations of the South Korean artillery brigade, where he was given a presentation of K9 self-propelled howitzers. During his visit, the president will also meet with Hanwha Aerospace CEO Jae-il Son to discuss the progress in the production of additional K9 howitzers for the Estonian defense forces.
The president also visited the Dora observation platform, where he was introduced to the demilitarized zone separating South Korea from North Korea and given an overview of the security situation on the Korean peninsula.