Renowned scholars and government officials from both Korea and ASEAN member states gathered at the 2023 ASEAN-Korea Forum, Tuesday, to discuss key issues surrounding the region and to mark the 35th anniversary of the ASEAN-Korea Dialogue Partnership.
Under the theme “Elevating ASEAN-Korea Strategic Partnership in a Changing Global Landscape,” the forum was held at Sogang University, co-organized by the ASEAN-Korea Centre and the Institute for East Asian Studies of Sogang University (SIEAS).
Kim Hae-yong, secretary general of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, emphasized the significance of Korea’s relations with ASEAN nations and the importance of the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative.
“Today, the growing uncertainties and complexities in global affairs have convened us together in the broader Indo-Pacific region. As the name suggests, ‘Indo-Pacific’ represents an extensive geographical coverage,” he said.
“Against this backdrop, the Korean government unveiled its Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region. Recognizing the significance of ASEAN within this vast region, the Korean government announced the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI) while committing to double its contribution to the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund by 2027 during the 23rd ASEAN-ROK Summit last year.”
KASI is a regional policy customized for Seoul’s core partner ASEAN within the framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy
Looking ahead, Kim highlighted the expectation for ASEAN and Korea to expand the scope and depth of their cooperation in various dimensions, including trade and investment, culture and tourism, and people-to-people exchanges.
“The year 2024 marks an important milestone, including the 35th anniversary of dialogue relations. Both sides are eager to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on this remarkable occasion,” Kim said.
In line with this commitment, the 2023 ASEAN-Korea Forum focused on exploring and elevating the ASEAN-Korea strategic partnership, addressing diverse perspectives on this vital relationship. The Forum encompasses sessions on policy perspectives, emerging challenges and insights from the young people who represent the future of ASEAN-Korea relations.
The event’s keynote address was delivered by Hassan Wirajuda, former foreign minister of Indonesia and current dean of the School of Law and International Studies at Prasetiya Mulya University.
Wirajuda shed light on the intricate interaction between ASEAN and Korea.
“The interaction between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea is marked by an asymmetry in various dimensions, including population, Gross National Product (GNP), income per capita, natural resource endowment and advancements in research and technology,” Wirajuda said.
“This asymmetry opens doors for synergy, fostering an environment ripe for collaborative growth and development.”
Wirajuda further highlighted the pivotal roles that both regions play in East Asia’s evolving narrative, driven by a significant geopolitical and economic pivot away from Europe. ASEAN, currently the fifth-largest global economy, is on track to ascend to the fourth position by 2030.
“ASEAN boasts a burgeoning population of nearly 700 million and an expanding middle class,” he said, offering a vast market for Korean products. “Korea could significantly benefit from ASEAN’s diverse natural resources.”
Turning to the complex geopolitical landscape of Northeast Asia, Wirajuda pointed out that South Korea finds itself nestled among regional powerhouses and nuclear-armed North Korea.
“While a fragile peace exists, historical complexities linger,” he said. In this context, he emphasized the role of ASEAN as a congenial partner for Korea, showcasing ASEAN’s ability to act as an adept bridge builder, particularly through its effective “plus one” dialogue mechanism that embraces Korea.
In session one of the forum, Lim Sung-nam, a former Korean ambassador to ASEAN, Vietnamese Ambassador to Korea Nguyen Vu Tung and professor Shin Yoon-hwan of Sogang University discussed the current status and future prospects of the ASEAN-Korea strategic partnership from a policy perspective.
During the session, Lim emphasized the vast opportunities for cooperation for the mutual benefit of Korea and ASEAN member states describing the partnership in three words “complementarity, continuity and collaboration.”
“There is a huge asymmetric in many dimensions between Korea and ASEAN. But I think there are wide areas where Korea-ASEAN work towards mutual benefit,” Lim said.
“We are fit to help each other. Neither Korea nor ASEAN has been a governance power in this part of the world nor did the two undertake any territorial military missions, unlike several other dialogue partners of ASEAN. So we are naturally fit to cooperate with each other. On the basis of continuality and complementarity, I think there are many areas we can collaborate together.”
For session two, scholars from both ASEAN and Korea, alongside the director for ASEAN External Cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, presented and discussed issues and challenges in the partnership’s future.
During the third session, an award ceremony for the 2023 ASEAN-Korea Academic Essay Contest organized by the ASEAN-Korea Centre was held. Winners of the contest will present their essays and share their perspectives on the ASEAN-Korea partnership as future players in ASEAN-Korea relations.
Source: Korea Times