South Korea enhances relations with ASEAN members

South Korea enhances relations with ASEAN members

FORUM Staff

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is strengthening ties with Southeast Asia through his New South Policy.

Moon announced the policy in November 2017 and then made his first state visit to Indonesia along with 200 business leaders, according to Reuters.

“Korean diplomacy in Asia has been more toward Japan, China and Russia. But I see that it should expand to new horizons,” Moon said in Jakarta during the business forum at which he promised to “dramatically strengthen cooperation with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).”

Moon aims to increase trade between South Korea and ASEAN to U.S. $200 billion by 2020. Trade between the two hit U.S. $119 billion in 2016, a fifteenfold increase since 1989, according to an analysis in a November 2017 edition of The Korea Herald newspaper.

ASEAN is South Korea’s second-largest trading and investment partner, while South Korea is ASEAN’s fifth largest-trading partner, The Korea Herald reported.

The push is designed to diversify South Korea’s economic pursuits. Reuters reported that the policy will mirror Moon’s New Northern Policy to increase cooperation between China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia, which Moon announced in September 2017 at the East Economic Forum in Russia.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said pursuing mutual and sustainable prosperity, increasing people-to-people exchanges, and partnering to build a new East Asia that is peaceful and safe are South Korea’s key goals in strengthening its ties with ASEAN, reported Malaysia’s news website, The Star Online. She made her comments during the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila in early August 2017. Within two weeks of his election and swearing-in ceremony in May 2017, Moon became the first South Korean president to send a special envoy to ASEAN.

After Moon’s November 2017 visit to Indonesia, Moon visited Vietnam and the Philippines and pledged to visit all ASEAN member states during his tenure, The Korea Herald reported. (Pictured: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In speaks at the 19th Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea Summit in Manila, Philippines, on November 13, 2017.)

Since he unveiled his Southeast Asia policy, Moon’s administration has been working hard to build relations with ASEAN member states. During a March 2018 visit to Hanoi, South Korean Foreign Minister Kyung-wa called Vietnam a key partner. She said the Foreign Ministry will work to implement agreements between the two nations to “bring the Vietnam-ROK strategic cooperative partnership to a new height,” according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Kim Young-sun, secretary-general of the ASEAN-Korea Centre and former South Korean ambassador to Indonesia, wrote in the August 31, 2017, edition of The Korea Herald that the ASEAN-Korean relations must be truly bilateral to succeed.

“There is a saying: It takes two hands to clap. This means that for ASEAN-Korea relations to prosper, it cannot be done one-way — it must be two-way and reciprocal. For South Korea to map out a meaningful vision and strategy for ASEAN-Korea relations, it should first know ASEAN and fully understand its visions, principles and policy directions. In further strengthening our partnership, South Korea should not be pursuing its own agenda, but comprehend what it is that ASEAN needs and where it is headed,” he wrote.

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