70 years of friendship
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - October 8, 2019 - 12:00am

On 3 March 1949, the Philippines became the first country in Southeast Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea by recognizing the latter’s sovereignty. That we are observing Korean National Foundation Day during the Platinum Jubilee Year of Philippine-Korea relations is a sign of true and lasting friendship.

For seven decades, this bond has led to partnerships in many areas – from government-to-government cooperation to vibrant people-to-people exchange.

Korea is the fourth largest trading partner of the Philippines, with our trade volume reaching $15.6 billion last year. As the third largest foreign investor in the Philippines, Korea’s foreign direct investment from January to June this year stood at $59.5 million, buoyed by the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program. The Philippines is also the third major beneficiary of Korean grants in the world. Additionally, the Korea International Cooperation Agency has provided more than $260 million in grant aid to the country since 1991.

Indeed, Korea is proud to be a part of the Philippines’ economic development. To this end, the Philippines and Korea have agreed to reach a deal on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) by next month, with negotiators of both countries currently engaged in related talks. It is perceived to attract larger investments that could open up job opportunities and inevitably raise the Filipino people’s standard of living. The FTA will also boost trade and develop balanced trade relations, consistent with the goals of Korea’s New Southern Policy (NSP). 

The NSP, which is seen to elevate Korea’s relations with the ASEAN, can push the relationship between Korea and the Philippines to a new level. In this regard, the special Korea-ASEAN summit taking place this November in Busan will feature talks on strengthening the free trade order and deepening bilateral cooperation. It is the perfect venue for Presidents Moon Jae-in and Rodrigo Duterte to further discuss increasing trade, enhancing defense partnership, and advancing educational and cultural ties between our two nations, as a follow-up to their bilateral talks during President Duterte’s official visit to Korea in June 2018. The Busan summit will also give President Moon an opportunity to expound on the NSP, which is all about cooperation for people, prosperity, and peace (3 Ps).

It is reassuring to know that the “3 Ps” are harmonious with the ideals of the Philippines. In this regard, I appreciate the adoption last February 8th by the Philippine House of Representatives of Resolution No. 188, recognizing and fully supporting the efforts of Korean President Moon Jae-in to bring peace, reconciliation, prosperity and stability in the Korean Peninsula. On the same day, the House also adopted HR No. 189, designating 2019 as the year of mutual exchange between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea in celebration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

This mutual exchange has remained vibrant through the years, as evidenced by the continuing increase in the number of Korean tourists in the Philippines. In 2018, 1.6 million Korean nationals visited this country, making them retain the top spot among foreign visitors, while more than half a million Filipino tourists went to Korea, owing to the growing popularity of K-Pop, Korean drama, cosmetics, food, and other consumer products among Filipinos.

At this stage in the deepening relationship between Korea and the Philippines, I believe we have a common understanding that maintaining and strengthening the friendship between Filipinos and Koreans will further contribute to regional peace and stability, which in turn will lead to co-prosperity.

So as we observe this fortuitous day, I take this moment to thank His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the Philippine government, and the Filipino people for remaining steadfast in supporting Korea and its people.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat!

(Han Dong-man is the Korean ambassador.)

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