1. First ever general elections in South Korea were held in May 1948 under the auspices of the United Nations. Mr KPS Menon from India was appointed as the Chairman of the nine member UN Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK) to organize and oversee the elections. He played an important role in the peaceful conduct of the general elections.
Korean War and the Armistice
2. During the Korean War (1950-53), India deployed an Army medical unit; the 60th Parachute Field Ambulance, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.G. Rangaraj. The unit disembarked at Pusan on 20 November 1950, and was initially deployed at Pyongyang on 29 November 1950. It was then divided into two sub units; the 'Forward Element' grouped with 27 British Brigade and the "Administrative Element" located at Daegu to assist the Korean Army Hospital and also treat civilians. The Forward Element was in the thick of action including a major airlift, "OP TOMAHAWK" with the 8th US Army from 23 to 31 March 1953 in the area of Munsan that involved linkup with 3rd Division US Army and later countering a massive enemy offensive on 22 April 1953. The unit came under command 28 British Brigade on 01 July 1951 with formation of the Commonwealth Division. It then participated in a series of operations until 23 August 1953. The unit comprised 627 personnel, suffered 03 fatal and 23 non fatal casualties during the deployment and treated over 222,324 patients including civilians during the Korean War earning numerous awards and widespread commendation.
3. The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement in July 1953. Members of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (NNRC) from Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and India, selected India to head the NNRC and supervise exchange of Prisoners of War (POW). Lieutenant General KS Thimmaya was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission. India dispatched one Brigade Group designated as Custodian Forces-India (CFI) comprising 5230 personnel to Korea, under Major General SSP Thorat. The 60th Indian Field Ambulance was merged with the CFI which took charge of over 25,000 POWs and assisted in their repatriation. Some of the POWs who refused to be repatriated were assisted in migration to neutral nations of their choice. Lieutenant General KS Thimmaya and the CFI won widespread respect of the Korean people by their exemplary and professional conduct.
4. India and ROK defence relations have expanded in recent years, spurred by a convergence of strategic interests, shared mutual goodwill spurred by several high level exchanges. Bilateral ties between the two countries were raised to the level of 'Strategic Partnership' during the visit to India by the previous President of ROK Mr Lee Myung-bakin January 2010 where he was invited as the 'Chief Guest' at the National Republic Day Celebrations of the country' the highest honour to be bestowed on any Head of State.
5. Several important agreements were signed during the visit to ROK of Defence Minister AK Anthony in September 2010 including MoUs on Defence Cooperation, as well as, one between Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India and Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) of ROK. The Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) between the DRDO and DAPA meets on an annual basis on issues of mutual cooperation. India agreed to set up a Defence Wing at its Embassy at Seoul, which opened on 26 October 2012. This was followed by the visit to India of Defence Minister Kim, Kwan-jin from 28 November to 01 December 2012 when both sides agreed on several initiatives to further promote bilateral defence ties.
6. National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon paid a first ever bilateral visit to Seoul from 30 June to 02 July 2013. This was followed by a visit to ROK of Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Air Staff, from 07 to 12 July 2013. General Sung II Hwan, Air Force Chief of Staff, ROK visited India from 12 to 14 November 2013.
7. The two countries have since instituted a regular dialogue between the two Ministries of Defence. The first ever such Defence Policy Dialogue (DPD) at the level of Deputy Minister, Ministry of Defence, was held at Seoul on 24 December 2013. The DPD has since upgraded to the level of Defence Secretary and will now be a part of '2+2 Dialogue', between the two sides. A bilateral Agreement on the Protection of Classified Military Information was also concluded during the state visit of President Park GeunHye to India in January 2014. It was also agreed to hold a regular dialogue between the national security structures of the two sides. The ROK Deputy NSA visited India in March 2015 for bilateral consultations.
8. Defence Minister (RM) Mr Manohar Parrikar, accompanied by Defence Secretary, senior Indian military and civilian officials and an Indian defence industry delegation, paid a 3-day visit to ROK from 16 April 2015 and co-chaired the India-ROK Defence Ministerial meeting with his Korean counterpart Gen Han Min-Koo. They held extensive discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral defence relationship, regional and global issues of mutual interest and identified ways to upgrade the defence relationship. The RM also met the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Choi Yun-hee, Minister Chang Myoung-Jin of the Korean Defence Acquisition Program Administration and National Security Advisor Kim Kwan-Jin. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to ROK during 18-19 May 2015, taking place within the first year of his government. He last visited ROK in May 2007 as Chief Minister of Gujarat. During the instant visit, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to ‘Special Strategic Partnership’. In the ‘Joint Statement For Special Strategic Partnership’ PM and President Park Geun-hye agreed to establish a 2+2 consultation mechanism at Secretary/Vice Minister of Foreign Office and Defence Ministry.
9. India and ROK Navy ships have been making regular ports of calls at each other's ports. Indian Navy ships sailed to Busan in June 2012, the INS Sahyadri visited Inchon in October 2015 while in the last such visit, three ships of the the Indian Navy's Eastern Fleet visited Busan from 21 to 25 June 2016. ROK Navy ships last visited Mumbai in August 2013 and Chennai in November 2014. The Coast Guards of the two nations also have a MoU since March 2006 on Maritime cooperation aimed at cooperation in preventing piracy, armed robbery, trafficking in arms, smuggling and illegal migration at sea and in combating marine pollution. ICG Ship Sarang visited Busan in August 2015 while the DG Indian Coast Guard also visited Seoul and Busan in August 2015 while the Commissioner of the Korea Coast Guard (KCG) and a KCG ship visited India earlier in June this year.
10. There have been regular and active exchanges of bilateral visits by delegations from various military training establishments that include the National Defence College (NDC) and training centre for united nations peacke keeping operations. ROK has officers attending the NDC & the Defence Services Staff College in India while Indian officers will join the Korea National Defence University & Joint Forces Militray University programs in 2017. Participants of the NDC India have visited ROK in the month of May for last four years (2013-16) while delegations from the Korea National Defence University (KNDU) visited India in September 2013 and August 2015. The Army War College (AWC) of India students visited ROK in October 2014 while participants of the Higher Defence Management Course from the College of Defence Management (CDM) India visited ROK in October 2014 and October 2016. In another maiden visit, Commandant College of Air Warfare India led delegation of Higher Air Command Course participants visited ROK in November 2015.
11.The two sides also have a bilateral agreement signed in 2005 for cooperation in the field of defence industries and logistics. The 5th Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) under this agreement was held at Seoul on 17-18 November 2014 while the 6th JCM was held in India in March this year.