Honorary Reporters

ASEAN-ROK relations through the people’s eyes

Nov 11, 2019

By Honorary Reporter John Paul Vergonia from the Philippines

(John Paul Vergonia)

Together we can!” Indonesian linguist Maf Ismail concludes while referring to the relations of Korea and the ASEAN countries. “I am anticipating more good cooperation established between ASEAN and Korea especially in the areas of tourism, education, industrial and small-medium enterprises which would benefit all parties. Hopefully, in the future, this strong relationship can promote more security and prosperity in the region and can be a model for other nations.”

The dialogue relations between Korea and the ASEAN has deepened through the years and three decades of partneship is certainly a milestone to be celebrated.

Korea is one of the strategic partners of ASEAN in which the legacy of genuine cooperation is visualize for the progress of the region. On November 25-26, the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Korea Dialogue Relations will be held in Busan. The event will serve as a venue to assess existing programs, projects and activities over the past decades and to lay out new ones for the coming years.

Republic of Korea and the ASEAN member states

ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a regional intergovernmental organization that promotes cooperation and integration on different areas including economic, political, security, military, education and sociocultural among its member states. It comprises ten countries in the Southeast Asia which include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN was inaugurated on August 8, 1967 in the capital city of Thailand as Bangkok Declaration, or the founding document of ASEAN, with its basic principles that focuses on co-operation, amity and non-interference.

As a global powerhouse and considered one of the most influential organizations, ASEAN also engages other economies in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, and worthy to be praised is the Republic of Korea. The ROK established its first dialogue relations with ASEAN in 1989 where it was followed by series of talks and meetings that eventually raised the country as a dialogue partner of the prestige cooperation. Besides being accorded as ASEAN’s Dialogue Partner, in the later years, APT or the ASEAN Plus Three cooperation was institutionalized, in which China, Japan and South Korea were integrated as member states and served as ASEAN’s counterpart in East Asia. The ASEAN Plus Three which was established in December 1997 aims to counterbalance the influence of the westerns in Asia and to stabilize the region’s financial markets.

ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations and the Commemorative Summit

In November 1989, the sectoral dialogue relations between Korea and the ASEAN nations was established. ROK was granted as a Full Dialogue Partner of ASEAN in July 1991 during the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Malaysia. Since then, ASEAN and ROK have been conducting dialogues and consultations in charting the future of the growing relations.

Korea hosted commemorative summits with the ASEAN nations in 2009 and 2014. This year's official summit, which will be the third of such, will focus on Korea's New Southern Policy that further solidifies partnership in all areas based on the values of 3Ps, the 'People, Prosperity and Peace,' pursuing a people-centered community of peace and prosperity. It will be attended by over 10 thousands of participants including the heads of state and government officials from all participating nations and dialogue partners in which it will be the largest international conference to take place in Korea since the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in.

Along with the main conference, various side events are being held in Korea to prepare for the much-awaited celebration. Among these activities include the ASEAN-KOREA Media Forum (April 24, 2019) which was attended by various influential news organizations and the academes to facilitate cultural exchanges between Korea and ASEAN nations, the ASEAN Week (June 14-16, 2019) in which the beauty of ASEAN was showcased through series of cultural and tourism festivals, the recently held ASEAN-KOREA Train: Advancing Together (October 15-19, 2019) which is aimed at providing public awareness about the long-lasting partneship of the member countries and contribute to the success of the approaching commemorative summit, and also, the ASEAN-KOREA Startup Week which is primarily organized for ASEAN startups to share ideas and collaborate with their Korean opposites set to held before and during the summit on November 19-28, 2019 at BEXCO (Busan Exhibition and Convention Center) in the city of Busan, the successful host of the historic conference.

The celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations also coincide with the 10th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, an intergovernmental organization mandated to promote economic and socio-cultural cooperation between Korea and the ASEAN nations, which was launched on March 13, 2009.

ASEAN-ROK and the People’s points of view

There is no denying the fact that the ASEAN and Korea's dialogue relations have reached this far. 30 years is a long yet fruitful journey and this just proves a good development momentum and continued cooperation of Korea and the ASEAN member states in all areas.

In lieu of this significant milestone and ahead of the celebration, let us find out what the people, particularly from the ASEAN nations and Korea, has in mind about the genuine partnership of ASEAN and Korea as well as to give a shout of applause toward the success of the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit.

Moe Thuzar, a Research Fellow and Coordinator of the Myanmar Studies Programme at ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies) in Singapore, gave her insights from the Myanmar perspective, “Myanmar and the Republic of Korea have enjoyed friendly relations since before Myanmar became an ASEAN member. The ROK has consistently sought to engage with Myanmar in initiatives for economic development of the country, as well as an investment destination.” She stressed that Korea has remained as one of Myanmar's top 10 investors and the cooperation of the two countries is still realize until today that began during the war. “President Moon Jae-In's recent visit to Myanmar in September 2019 was also very well received by the Myanmar people, who were touched by his reference to and recognition of Myanmar (then Burma) providing Korea with rice as food aid during the period of the Korean War. The ROK's further investment in Myanmar's industrial and financial sectors, on top of existing rural development and wide-ranging capacity-building programmes for Myanmar, serve to raise a higher profile of the ROK in Myanmar sentiments, adding to the triumph of the "K-Wave" soft-power. All this bodes well for the New Southern Policy's successful realization, and the future of Myanmar-ROK in the context of ASEAN-ROK relations as well as bilaterally.”

Alongside with the celebration, Korea and the countries of the Mekong region are looking forward for the 1st Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit that advances the cooperation to the summit-level in order to further reinforce its partnership among the member states. Myanmar is part of Mekong which is the fastest growing region of ASEAN together with the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. The Mekong-ROK Summit is set on November 27, 2019 which will also be held in Busan.

“As Myanmar is a developing country, it is important to have a good relationship with the established countries to get long-term support. But as for Myanmar, there’s no more assistance from the westerns due to the many issues we are currently facing. The people of Myanmar have to rely on neighboring countries like China. However, it isn’t enough to depend on just one country to build a sustainable economy. The government should also seek support in other countries in order for Myanmar to progress.” Pyae Phyo Lynn stated his own sentiments and cited Korea as the country’s constant investor. “Korea is a developed country and with the recent visit of the president (Moon Jae-in), it brought yet another investments and new projects for Myanmar.”

Audit assistant Hin Bunkheng, who’s currently working in an international audit firm in Cambodia, said, “It’s a sign of the community’s prosperity through cooperation and mutual understandings for either the whole region or member states. For Cambodia, both multilateral and bilateral cooperations with Korea all benefit to the social and economic development. In recent years, we have received various aids to improve the sectors of education and health care, and also, this in a way reduces tension on social conflicts. Moreover, large number of immigrants are being employed in Korea which improves the living in remote and rural areas. Talking about trade, the two countries keep making progress in this field to ensure sustainable economic growth.” Hin also gave his personal views that he wanted the leaders to reflect on at the the upcoming summit and enumerated three, “Firstly, all relevant stakeholders should not only prioritize their own interests but also consider everyone in the community to achieve a mutual benefit. Secondly, the sentiments of all the ASEAN-ROK member countries should be recognized as to ensure fair cooperation in the community. Lastly, the summit should also focus on addressing social issues in both the developed and developing countries to ensure everyone’s equal rights.”

Meanwhile, Kuk Son Yong, known by her stage name Shine Kuk, a Korean who works as a TV personality at a local Philippine broadcasting station, shared her journey in the foreign country, “When I think of ASEAN-Korea, I remember what my dad in Korea has always told our family over my 10 years of living abroad: "United we stand, divided we fall.” I’ve always kept his word on my mind and was able to survive and grow well as who I am today. Like my story, since ASEAN-Korea have joined all together through the years, we now have achieved the glorious 30 years of relations even though there have been many crises.” As 2018 Miss Korea-Philippines and a Consular and Diplomatic Affairs graduate, she also shared how she actively promotes the Korean pop culture as well as the people-to-people exchange between Korea and the Philippines. “I have had various opportunities to promote and share what my mother country has to offer such as K-Culture, K-Pop, K-Beauty, and Korean lifestyle including the beautiful culture of the Philippines through my participation on events, guesting on TV programs and through my social media channels.” Recently, Shine was honored to witness the beautiful cultures of both countries in one stage while hosting the 28th Philippines-Korea Cultural Exchange Festival. "As a proud daughter of the Republic of Korea, I will keep on supporting and take part in the future of ASEAN-Korea relations and hope to see more participation from the younger generations in support and to speak out for the cooperation."

Korea.net Honorary Reporters from ASEAN have also expressed their views and opinions on the dialogue relations between the Southeast Asian nations and Korea as well as their support for this year’s ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit.

Diana Kassandra Almarez, a university student and delegate of the ASEAN-Korea Train, have high hopes for the Philippines, Korea and the ASEAN relations. “The relationship of the Philippines with ASEAN and Korea will become even stronger due to the expanding communication among the people in the region. Even though there are still a lot of things to consider in strengthening and improving the different aspects of the diplomatic relations, we can see that the government and related organizations are making efforts to maximize the policies and projects that will help raise public awareness about the importance of the participation of the Philippines in ASEAN and of Korea as one of its strategic partners in improving the region.” She pointed out that the efforts of ASEAN and Korea will give more opportunity for the state leaders and the people to actively participate, and concluded, “My wish for the upcoming ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit is more active participation of people of the member states because ASEAN-Korea relations will not reach 30 years and even improve without them.” As everyone, Diana Kassandra also wishes for the continuous peace in the Korean peninsula and the whole ASEAN region.

Even before Korea joined the ASEAN, its relationship with the Philippines had already been shaped through time that began with the aid and cooperation of the two countries during the Korean War. This year, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea is celebrating 70th years of their bilateral relations.

Korea.net Honorary Reporter Natcha Poompradit, currently based in Thailand, also showed her active support for the ASEAN-ROK relations, “I love the programs of the ASEAN community that aims to promote collaborations and establish strong partnerships in economic, social, environmental, and cultural areas for an even better ASEAN region. Through this, it makes all the member states and Korea become ‘a whole family’ and to progress further.” While Thariq Hafidz Nabil Al Farouqi, a student majoring in Korean language and supporter of the Korean Cultural Center in Indonesia, also gave insights on his country’s relations with Korea and ASEAN, “The progress of the relations of Indonesia and Korea is arguably good as well as its diplomatic affairs with the ASEAN." He hopes for the continuous advancement of Indonesia and all the ASEAN member states.

Looking forward to an even more better mutual support, Malaysian consultant Soh Zhau Wan also desires for the unceasing success of ASEAN-ROK relations, she said, “I am hoping that the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit will continue to strengthen partnership between Korea and the ten countries in Southeast Asia.” Among the things that she wants the summit to focus on are cultural exchange between countries, forge networks for businesses, and addressing issues on financial crisis and climate change. She added, “Economic cooperation is needed to build a strong community. Leaders should develop, expand and grow the nation through education and overcome poverty.”

The sentiments of the public reflect the people’s endless support and hopes for the progress and continuous cooperations amongst the nations. It is great that we are all united in supporting the goals and common vision of the community and it’s all about the spirit of one ASEAN-ROK family. Still, despite the issues and hindrances our nations are currently dealing with, we are one in solidifying greater cooperation and remarkable progress of ASEAN-ROK towards regional prosperity and peace. On behalf of the people of ASEAN and Korea, here's to another successful commemorative summit and decades more not just for the dialogue relations but also for the bilateral ties between Korea and all the ASEAN nations.


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