[Mar] Diplomatic ties with Cuba expected to fuel cultural exchanges

Date Mar 22, 2024

(Courtesy of Getty images Korea)

(Courtesy of Getty images Korea)

On February 14, the Republic of Korea and Cuba established formal ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations. Korea’s sudden establishment of relations with Cuba after a 65-year hiatus made the U.N. member state Korea’s 193rd diplomatic partner.


The establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba marks an important milestone in Korea’s diplomatic engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the establishment of a new base for diplomacy in the region. The forming of official relations with Cuba is also expected to enhance Korea’s diplomatic status as a pivotal middle power on the global stage.


The Korean government will promote the expansion of exchanges by establishing a system for economic cooperation and support to aid Korean companies entering Cuba. The Korean government’s institutional support in this regard is expected to contribute significantly to economic growth through bilateral cooperation in the future.


Diplomatic missions are expected to be exchanged between the two countries. The Korean government’s diplomatic efforts will provide a great boost to business activities, travel and cultural exchanges between the two countries. The government is currently in discussions with the Cuban government to establish official relations, including the establishment of a Korean embassy in Cuba and the opening of a Cuban embassy in Korea. These diplomatic relations are the result of longstanding efforts between the two countries.


The diplomatic ties are the result of the Korean government’s persistence in presenting formal proposals to the Cuban government since 2000 in regard to negotiations about forming diplomatic relations. The Korean government will continue to work to improve relations with the Cuban government, as well as promote cultural exchanges between the two countries.


Both countries have continuously engaged one another in non-political fields such as people-to-people exchanges, tourism and culture, and these exchanges have led to the spread of a mutually positive atmosphere. Non-political exchanges and cooperation in regard to tourism have been one of the main reasons for the opening of dialogue between the two countries. The influence of the Korean Wave has also played a role in these exchanges. In the five years before the pandemic, the number of Korean tourists to Cuba tripled to more than 15,000. The number of K-pop fan club members in Cuba has surpassed 10,000, and the popularity of K-dramas is also high. The positive image of Korea among Cubans seems to have played a significant role in the formation of relations between the two countries.

Students studying at a Korean language school in Havana, Cuba (Courtesy of Yonhap News)

Students studying at a Korean language school in Havana, Cuba (Courtesy of Yonhap News)

Meanwhile, a Korean language school was officially established in the Cuban capital of Havana in 2022. The school currently has about 120 students.


Cheers erupted when teachers and students at the school heard the news of the establishment of official relations. Some students were overjoyed to learn that they could finally visit Korea, a country they had long hoped to see.


At the Korean language school, students said they were heartened by the news and were excited that the two countries were now officially friends. The teachers and students in the school are all familiar with Korean culture and call each other by Korean names.


The Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), Cuba’s premier art university, was founded in 1976 and is strong in the arts, including music, visual arts and theater. Given the high demand for Korean language education in Cuba, ISA has been working with the Korean language school in Havana since January to prepare Korean language courses, which will be offered on a pilot basis starting in March. If Korean is adopted as an official subject at the university, challenging problems related to the hiring of Korean instructors and textbooks may be resolved.


Following news of Korea’s establishment of official relations with Cuba, interest in cultural experiences such as Cuban food and music is gradually increasing in Korea. Salsa dance classes have become popular, and there are more inquiries about traveling to Cuba and about Cuban restaurants. Cultural exchange and cooperation between the two countries looks set to increase in the future.

Source Indication(Type 1)

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's "Korea Here & Now" work can be used under the condition of "Public Nuri Type 1 (Source Indication)."