ASEAN: Partnership for Real, Friendship for Good
By Yu Myung-hwan
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
The ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit is to begin today, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Korea-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership.
The Korean government has exerted its utmost efforts in preparations for the summit, to ensure it is a milestone in ushering in a new era of even stronger cooperation between Korea and ASEAN member countries.
Over the last two decades, Korea and ASEAN have continued to develop bonds of cooperation in the political, economic and socio-cultural areas.
In particular, with the conclusion of the ``Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership'' in 2004, Korea and ASEAN have taken our relations to the next level.
Our economic partnership has been further bolstered through the Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, with the signing of the Agreement on Trade in Goods and the Agreement on Trade in Services in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Through such progress, our two-way trade volume reached $90.2 billion last year.
If this trend continues, ASEAN is expected to become the second largest trading partner of Korea in the near future.
In the field of investments, ASEAN has become Korea's second largest investment destination with our volume of investments reaching $5.8 billion in 2008.
Furthermore, Korea-ASEAN ties are flourishing in a whole range of areas, including cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
Yet we should not be fully content with what we have achieved thus far, since the future possibilities in our partnership are virtually limitless.
And in the face of today's global challenges, including the financial crisis, energy security and climate change, the need for cooperation is greater than ever before.
In this regard, the Commemorative Summit is indeed timely.
President Lee Myung-bak announced Korea's ``New Asia Initiative'' during his visit to Indonesia last March.
In recognition of the growing importance of Asia, this initiative aims to substantially enhance our ties of cooperation with all the countries of Asia, and with ASEAN in particular.
During his time as a businessman, President Lee forged special bonds with ASEAN countries.
President Lee's extensive and deep knowledge of ASEAN has served as a strong foundation for us in pursuing a more active diplomacy with the bloc.
Making full use of the opportunity presented by the Commemorative Summit, the Korean government will seek to carry out our ``New Asia Initiative'' in the following ways.
First, the Korean government will announce detailed measures to increase our official development assistance to countries in Asia, and share with them our experiences on development. This is with a view to playing our due role in a manner commensurate with our economic capacity. By starting with our neighbors in Southeast Asia, Korea will lay a solid foundation to secure the broader respect of the international community in the years ahead.
Second, Korea and ASEAN will sign the Agreement on Trade in Investments tomorrow, which will bring about the completion of the entire Korea-ASEAN FTA. It holds great significance for Korea-ASEAN relations, as it will establish an institutional framework for Korea and ASEAN to ensure a full-fledged economic partnership.
Third, Korea and ASEAN will discuss ways to address global challenges including climate change and the financial crisis. In particular, Korea will share with ASEAN countries our enthusiasm for the vision of ``Low Carbon, Green Growth,'' a high priority policy for the Korean government. I firmly believe that this will contribute to strengthening our ability to cope with climate change as well as creating new engines for further economic growth.
Currently in Jeju, there is a great sense of expectation and anticipation for the holding of the Commemorative Summit.
The summit emblem, with its image of Korea and ASEAN members holding hands, have been placed all around the island.
The ASEAN Street set up on Jeju with the national flags and symbols of ASEAN member countries is also adding to the mood of festivities.
As the theme of the summit is ``Partnership for Real, Friendship for Good,'' it is my sincere hope that through the summit, Korea and ASEAN will draw up a blueprint for the fostering of still greater bonds of cooperation.
In all, I have every confidence that the summit will further strengthen the deep friendship between Korea and ASEAN, and will be of tremendous benefit to both sides in a variety of ways.