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Expanding Australia-Korea People-to-People Exchanges

Final Report

About This Report

KARP's final report is the culmination of over 15 months of interviews, fieldwork and roundtables with almost 100 extraordinary Australians and Koreans looking into the people-to-people (P2P) links that underpin this bilateral relationship.


The report covers a broad range of topics, including migration, renewable energy, agriculture, media and education, offering valuable insights into how governments and industry can better support community groups, build social license for projects, promote sister city relationships, reduce onerous regulations and fund exciting new P2P pilot projects.

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Executive Summary

  • The 2021 Australia-Korea Comprehensive Strategic Partnership identifies people-to-people (P2P) links as the third pillar of the relationship alongside security and economic cooperation.

  • Throughout 2022 and early 2023, the Korea- Australia Relations Project team at the University of Melbourne conducted interviews, fieldwork, andorganised roundtables to better understand how P2P connections can be improved and expanded.

  • Rather than a top-down approach of discussions with politicians, government officials or academics, the project focused on how Australian and Korean communities have themselves experienced the bilateral relationship. In total, over 50 Australians and Koreans participated in our roundtables and 43 people were interviewed in Australia and Korea.

  • The report begins by situating the P2P pillar within the broader bilateral relationship and outlining how both governments could incorporate P2P cooperation alongside their public diplomacy efforts.

  • It then introduces P2P perspectives across four areas based on roundtables and fieldwork: migration and diaspora; renewable energy and environment; agriculture and food security; and media and education.

  • The first roundtable on migration and diaspora linkages heard from students, workers, adoptees, second and third generation diaspora, immigration agents, employers, and community leaders.

  • The second roundtable on renewable energy and the environment brought together participants from the energy industry, researchers, community leaders, and environmental activists.

  • The third roundtable on agriculture and food security featured cattle farmers, Koreans who work on Australian farms, mayors of regional councils, agricultural scientists, exporters and importers, and officials.

  • The fourth roundtable on media and education involved Australian and Korean journalists, newspaper editors, teachers, students, and researchers.

  • The final section reviews the key findings and common themes from across the four roundtables about how to improve P2P cooperation andexchanges. It offers five key recommendations that could guide how policymakers think about the P2P relationship.

  • The report fills an important gap in the policy literature on the Australia-Korea relationship by examining the dynamics that shape closer P2P cooperation across a range of fields.


Key Findings and Recommendations

  1. P2P categories could be broadened.
    P2P cooperation is far too narrowly understood by both governments. Important communities tend to fall outside of this scope and the connection mechanisms available to facilitate P2P links vary across groups.
    Recommendation: Establish working groups within the Socio-Cultural Committee to identify new P2P activities specifically targeted at local councils, regional communities, small and microbusinesses, selected non-profit organisations, and diaspora communities.

  2. Social license should be at the forefront of bilateral projects.
    Public support and community trust in the actors who claim to be acting in the bilateral relationship’s best interests must be earned and sustained. Policies and investments that will affect the livelihoods, environments, and sustainability of local communities need early engagement.
    Recommendation: Government and business forums and dialogues that are likely to affect local communities could undertake early outreach and engagement to involve communities in the scoping phase as well as hold preliminary town hall meetings.

  3. Sister City relationships could be revamped.
    Sister city relationships are under-utilised springboards for P2P cooperation which could be reviewed and updated. There are currently 27 known sister city and friendship city relationships that have been entered into between Australia and Korea at the state, city, and council levels.
    Recommendation: A register of activities taking place under sister and friendship city relationships could be kept updated. A forum could be held with all LGA-District relationships to review where upgraded relationships are needed. New relationships could be explored, particularly in northern Australia.

  4. Bureaucratic over-regulation must be streamlined.
    Participants across all roundtables expressed frustration at the onerous restrictions, costs, and wait times that often deterred them from longer-term commitments to either country.
    Recommendation: Visa processing fees, wait times, eligibility changes and work conditions all impose unnecessary burdens on would-be migrants and travellers and should be reduced wherever possible.

  5. Smaller but more numerous high-quality pilot projects are needed.
    The major funding organisations in the bilateral relationship could discuss how to support smaller, but more numerous, pilot projects and initiatives. Pilot projects could include agriculture technology, research on visa employment outcomes, civil society dialogues and university-based forums.
    Recommendation: Funding organisations and industry groups could prioritise smaller, but more numerous, pilot projects that can increase thevisibility of the bilateral relationship and help it stand out from the competition.

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