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ASEM, Korea¡¯s link to Europe, future

Posted October. 16, 2000 13:39,   


The Asia-Europe Meeting is set to start Oct. 19 in Seoul. The Korean President will meet with the leaders of 10 Asian nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations, including China and Japan, along with 15 nations of the European-Union. As it would be the historic first for Korea to host such a meeting, it is of great symbolic importance.

With 21st century considered to be in the hands of the three regional power blocs -- Asia, Europe, and North America -- the relationship between Europe and Asia, which largely had been ignored, looks to have taken on a new course of greater relationship building.

Facing the trend of the globalization, it would be strategically advisable for Korea to devise a new policy of balanced diplomacy toward the world through aggressive diplomatic interchanges with nations around the world.

Many of the European leaders making their way to Korea are representatives from the 15 developed nations belonging to the EU, and they share a view that Korea has been rising to a status of Asian partner in the 21st century. Last year, the EU invested US$6.3 billion in Korea, surpassing the investment by the United States and Japan.

In terms of trade, the EU is Korea`s third largest trade partner next to the United States and Japan. Last year alone, Korea exported US$20.5 billion worth of products to the EU, making it the second largest export market for Korea. During Korea¡¯s economic crisis management period, the EU, which had held more loans to Korea than the United States, agreed more earnestly to the extension of maturity dates, as well as to offer secondary loans. In terms of investment, beginning in 1995 and to 1999, the investment by EU into Korea has had an annual growth rate of 91.9%.

On the diplomatic front, the EU has been greatly supportive of President Kim Dae-Jung`s tolerance policy toward the North and through various diplomacy talks and humanitarian aids, the EU has lent support in promoting the inter-Korean dialogue.

While continuing to support the Korean Energy Development Organization, which was established to curtail the proliferation of nuclear arms on the Korean peninsula, the EU sent humanitarian aid amounting to US$135 million last year through dialogues with the two Koreas, and this year, the EU has sent US$19 million in food aid and US$5 million in humanitarian support.

The future improvement of interchange and cooperation between Korea and the EU will have great importance in national strategic policies. That is why the government views the ASEM as also being a very important long-term diplomatic paving stone and a link to a more comprehensive diplomacy.

The proposals made by Korea, along with France, Japan and Sweden, for a Eurasian high-speed information network, the ASEM scholarship project, the information-gap reduction project, and the establishment of round-table talks for globalization, are looked upon with hope to make the ASEM a more practical cooperative organization.

As the ASEM in Seoul has such great significance to make it possible for Korea to stand proud in the international political arena in the 21st century, all Koreans must realize the importance of the ASEM for Korea strategically and its importance as a link to wider diplomacy. As such, for the success of the ASEM, all efforts and support must be given.

Ambassador Lee See-Young, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade