ASEAN and Korea set to sail another 30 years ahead
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Kim Young-Chae (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2019 - 12:00am

This year, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-Korea relations as well as the 70th anniversary of the Philippines-Korea relations.

Figures speak louder than words. When Korea became a dialogue partner of ASEAN back in 1989, the trade volume between the two was only $8.2 billion. In 2017, however, the volume was increased by 18 folds to $150 billion. To Korea, ASEAN is the second largest trading partner after China. For ASEAN, Korea is the 5th largest trading and investment partner. ASEAN is the most popular destination for Korean visitors. Every year, more than 100 ASEAN-Korea official meetings are organised. As such, ASEAN and Korea have proactively engaged in every possible area from people-to-people, business-to-business and government-to-government.

For the last few years, ASEAN has been a big agenda for Korea, particularly for Korea’s future diplomacy. South Korea declared the New Southern Policy in order to upscale and uplift relations with ASEAN under three pillars namely People, Prosperity and Peace. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the dialogue partnership, Korea will host the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit as well as the very first Korea-Mekong Summit in Korea later November this year. Institutional building for ASEAN affairs in the Korean government has been also remarkable as we increase manpower, ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund, bilateral ODA, cultural cooperation projects and people-to-people exchanges.

‘People’ promotes people-to-people exchanges and mutual understanding which will contribute to ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community building. We will facilitate ASEAN citizens’ easier access to Korea by streamlining the visa system. At the moment, citizens of some ASEAN member states including the Philippines are required to apply for visa to Korea. Simplification of the visa application process such as multiple entry visa will benefit ASEAN citizens and boost Korean tourism industry. There are approximately 65,000 international married couples and nearly 500,000 ASEAN nationals in Korea. A number of cultural events such as ASEAN-Korea Train and a homecoming event will be carried out throughout the year in order to enhance mutual understanding of cultures and family values.

Under ‘Prosperity’, which focuses on ASEAN Economic Community, we will encourage all stakeholders to achieve the two-way trade volume of $200 billion by 2020. In order to facilitate business cooperation between ASEAN and Korea, we will organise a matchmaking MSMEs expo and participate in those ASEAN economic initiatives such as ASEAN Smart Cities Network and ASEAN Connectivity. In addition, ASEAN-Korea Infrastructure Ministers’ Meeting will be held in Seoul, with the financial backing of a newly established Global Infrastructure Fund.  

‘Peace’ is what Korea and ASEAN consider as foundation for the region’s peace and prosperity as President Moon emphasized ‘Peace is economy, Peace is prosperity.’ ASEAN’s success for the last 50 years is also praised by peace and stability in the region. From last year, the Korean Peninsula embarked on a long journey of peace and stability while three inter-Korea summits were held in a year. The very first US-North Korea Summit was held in Singapore last year and the second summit is now scheduled in Vietnam. ASEAN is chosen for twice in a row for the US-North Korea Summit. This might be the result of ASEAN’s endeavours to build peace and stability in the region. The Korean government appreciates ASEAN’s continuous supports and constructive role in the inter-Korean relations.  

In line with ‘Peace,’ we are going to have ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) Series, supported by ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund, in Manila, 21-22 February. At the occasion, peace process between the government of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Korean Peninsula and other issues will be discussed in depth. Peace and Reconciliation begins by respecting differences while appreciating commonalities. To some extent, ASEAN’s ‘Unity in Diversity’ reflects this concept. In this sense, ASEAN’s experiences in building the spirit of Peace and Reconciliation can be extended to the inter-Korean context.

At the commemorative summit, the leaders will look back at what we have achieved for the last 30 years and announce the vision which will course another 30 years ahead of ASEAN and Korea. In the core of the vision is improvement of living standards of the people in a peaceful and prosperous environment. Throughout the year, the Mission of the Republic of Korea to ASEAN will closely consult with ASEAN friends to the successful conclusion of the summit inter alia ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’, the theme of 2019 ASEAN Chairmanship.

(Kim Young-chae is South Korea’s Ambassador to ASEAN in Jakarta.)

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