By Kang Seung-woo
A summit between Korea and the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) will take place on December 11-12 in Busan, Cheong Wa Dae announced Tuesday.
"In celebration of the 25th anniversary of relations between Korea and ASEAN, Korea will invite leaders of the 10-nation bloc and its secretary general," presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said in a briefing.
The two sides initiated relations in November 1989 and the partnership was elevated to the summit level in 1997.
"The summit is the first multilateral summit to take place here since the inauguration of the Park Geun-hye administration," Min said.
He added that it would be the most important diplomatic event to be held in Korea this year.
The summit ― the second of its kind ― is expected to offer an opportunity for the both sides to further boost strategic relations. The maiden summit between the two sides was held in Jeju 2009.
Since they established dialogue, the bilateral ties have dramatically improved on the back of the Korea-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA), signed in 2009, covering the trade of goods, services and investment.
ASEAN is Korea's No. 2 investment destination and second-largest trade partner, with two-way trade amounting to $135 billion last year. The bloc is also the second-largest market for the country's construction industry.
Korea is ASEAN's fifth-largest trade partner.
The two sides have set sights on reaching $150 billion in bilateral trade by 2015.
The summit comes as President Park is making efforts to build stronger relations with ASEAN, particularly Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, dubbed "VIP," given that she has stressed the significance of the three countries as Korea's strategic partners in achieving her "sales diplomacy," aimed at finding new growth engines for the country. Some economists say VIP could be the "post-BRICS" nations, referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. ASEAN is also a major market for hallyu (Korean wave).
Given Korea's relationship with ASEAN members has been mostly about economic ties, Korea and ASEAN agreed last year to strengthen their political alliance this time around.
"The two sides decided to have a separate session to handle political issues with ASEAN during the scheduled special summit," a government official said.
Park attended the Korea-ASEAN summit, held in Brunei in October.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.