With the country established as New Zealand’s sixth-largest trading partner, and NZDF troops still helping to enforce a ceasefire on the Korean peninsula, it’s no surprise Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters this year described the two countries as “natural partners in the Asia-Pacific”.
Yet talking to people on the ground in Seoul, some feel there is more that can be done to tighten the bilateral ties.
Phillip Turner, New Zealand’s ambassador to South Korea, is a relatively recent arrival: he was lured to the post earlier this year after 18 years working for Fonterra, and before that diplomatic postings in Tokyo and Brussels.
Gesturing out the window to the Seoul cityscape, Turner is clear about why he was drawn back to the public service.
“In 2018, I couldn’t think of a more interesting part of the globe to be.”
South Korea is at an important stage in its economic and social development, he says, shifting from a country playing catch-up to one which now must transition to a mature economy.