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[ASEAN-Korea Summit]ASEAN, Korea Tighten 20-year Ties

Posted June. 02, 2009 07:36,   


South Korea and the ASEAN nations agreed to forge closer, broader ties at the first session of the ASEAN-Korea Summit yesterday, expanding two decades of economic and cultural exchange.

This year’s summit commem-orates the 20th anniversary of Korea’s relations with the South-east Asian bloc. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva are serving as the co-chairs of the summit taking place at the Inter-national Convention Center in Seogwipo, Jeju Island.

ASEAN-Korea ties were first established in 1989 as a “dialogue relationship” in trade, investment and tourism. Two years later, Korea was raised to a full “dialogue partner” of ASEAN and began exchanges in technology transfer, development cooperation and human resources development. Relations had deepened enough by November 2004 to be upgraded to “comprehensive cooperation partnership” status.

Trade between the two sides is projected to jump to US$150 billion in 2015 from US$90.2 billion last year, while South Korea will double its official development aid to ASEAN nations to US$400 million in the same period, according to plans agreed upon yesterday by heads of state.

Under the motto “Partnership for Real, Friendship for Good,” the ASEAN leaders and President Lee gave a positive assessment of relations so far and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation further.

In his opening remarks, Lee invoked the “New Asia Initiative” he had announced at the beginning of the year. “Many people say the 21st century will belong to Asia,” he said. “Keeping pace with such trends, it’s high time for us to move Korea-ASEAN relations for-ward.”

Lee also pledged to expand his government’s contribution to Asia, pursue economic cooperation plans tailored to each specific country’s needs, and continue to work with other nations on global issues such as climate change.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit said he expected the summit to be remem-bered as “a landmark event” in ASEAN-Korea relations.

Lee and the ASEAN leaders also agreed to expand cultural and human-resource exchanges by boosting the US$3 million ASEAN-Korea cooperation fund to US$5 million after 2010. The two sides will double the number of ASEAN students allowed to participate in Korea’s “Global Korea Scholarship” program from 109 per year currently to more than 200 by 2012.

“Korea will invite a total of 7,000 ASEAN trainees to the nation by 2015,” Lee said. “We will also send a team of 10,000 volunteers overseas through the ‘World Friends Korea’ program, focusing on IT services.” ASEAN leaders said they would support the new ASEAN-Korea Centre in Seoul.

In the second round of talks to be held today, Lee and ASEAN leaders will discuss global issues, including climate change, and will adopt a joint statement.

The state heads will also sign an ASEAN-Korea free-trade agree-ment on investment, (subject to parliamentary ratification). The deal will cap four and a half years of negotiations; similar accords on trade and services are already in effect.

By Jung Yong-gwan yongari@donga.com