Manifestation on the 75th Anniversary of Philippines-South Korea Diplomatic Relations

Mr. President:

The mere mention of BTS, Jewel in the Palace, Squid Game, Gangnam Style would probably elicit scores of reactions among members of our staff and among the general populace. Today, as we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and South Korea, beyond Hallyu or Korean Wave, the cultural phenomenon that has taken the world by storm—allow me to mention just a few notable things worth pointing out— 


In terms of cash remittances, 67,000 Overseas Filipinos in South Korea sent PhP 46.4 billion in 2023[1]. This makes South Korea the 10th most important source of cash remittances. That is Php46.4 billion in additional purchasing power for families back home, and a great help to our recovering economy.  

The strength of our Filipino workforce led to our inclusion in South Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS), an innovative labor migration scheme extended to 16 countries. Our inclusion into the EPS has given more than 33,000 of our fellowmen an opportunity to provide for families back home. 


Diplomatic relations between our two countries were established on the 3rd of March 1949, and it would be tested a little over a year later. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, then President of the UN General Assembly Carlos P. Romulo advocated for the international defense of South Korea before the Assembly on the 25th of September 1950. In fact, the Philippines had already sent the first of the five battalion combat teams from the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) to Busan six days prior. 

Today, two memorials stand in Goyang City and in Yeoncheon County, in commemoration of the courage and bravery of our fellowmen, honoring over 7,400 who have fought valiantly alongside South Korean soldiers for independence and for the support and preservation of democracy.  

In 1999, my father, then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada arrived in Seoul for a state visit which coincided with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our nations. On that state visit my father advocated for the Filipino workers in South Korea, as well as the promotion of investment and trade. Then President Kim Dae-jung expressed hope during that meeting that South Korea would be able to participate in the modernization of the Philippine Navy, which has since been realized. In fact, in 2023 they have partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines by building the Navy’s first Corvette[2], which we hope will soon allow us to take a bolder role in upholding stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.


From a security partnership, we have seen our relations flourish in terms of economic interests by way of the signing of the Philippines-Korea Free Trade Agreement September last year. 

In terms of trade Mr. President, South Korea remains a top trading partner, ranking 5th in terms of total exports for 2023 amounting to USD 3.5 billion or PhP 196 billion. In terms of tourism, South Korea ranks number 1 in foreign tourist arrivals, totaling 1.4 million[3] in 2023. That is over ¼ of overall tourist arrivals last year. 

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

From once being a recipient, South Korea has now become an Official Development Assistance (ODA) donor country. Which, according to His Excellency Ambassador Lee Sang-hwa, has reached USD 80 million or PhP 4.4 billion for the Philippines in 2023. Ambassador Lee refers to this continued form of support as an “investment in security and prosperity…an engine of growth that creates jobs, expands market, and helps countries in transition”.

Though the ties between our two countries were forged amidst the background of conflict and military collaboration, today it has blossomed into a more expansive and deeper cooperation which now includes agriculture, climate, change, disaster risk reduction, health, innovation, and socio-cultural exchanges.

For 75 years of friendship and cooperation, and to many more, allow me to say: Kamsahamnida.


[1] Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas OF’ Cash Remittances 2023

[2] A small, fast naval vessel ranking in size below a frigate; a small warship

[3] 26.41% of overall tourist arrivals in 2023