The ASEAN member states are making a vigorous leap forward like carp in the Mekong River. As they are all young and dynamic, their future is bright. They will create a new global order in which countries develop while respecting each other through a culture of harmony and sharing.
For Korea, cooperation with ASEAN means creating a foundation for sustainable growth while sharing experiences and possibilities. It’s also a means to diversify imports by reducing dependence on particular countries and to expand the scope of free trade. To become a genuine “bridge nation” connecting the continent and ocean, we have to firmly join hands with ASEAN.
With this summit with President Bounnhang of Laos, I’ve met the leaders of all 10 ASEAN nations. Each of them welcomed cooperation with Korea and expressed support for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In the meantime, a Korean company secured a deal to construct a liquefied natural gas import terminal in Thi Vai, Vietnam. In Malaysia, a joint smart city pilot project has begun. In addition, many other projects are producing tangible results.
Above everything else, what gave me strength during my trip were the Korean businesspeople and residents in ASEAN countries as well as the Korean travelers to the region. I was able to see for myself the potential of the Hallyu culture, which is loved in ASEAN. I’d like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the Koreans who have helped raise the Republic of Korea’s standing.
The ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the inaugural Mekong-Korea Summit to be held in Busan this November are not just perfunctory international conferences. These summits are crucial for building up friendship and planting the seeds for a shared prosperity with these invaluable countries: Indonesia, where human beings prosper in harmony with nature; the Philippines, the future of ASEAN; Vietnam, the heart of the ASEAN economy; Singapore, a country of openness and inclusiveness; Malaysia, a source of power for cultural convergence in Asia; Cambodia, a symbol of the Mekong River’s takeoff; Brunei, which is laying the infrastructure for prosperity; Thailand, which leads in cultural exchanges and tourism; Myanmar, which aspires for prosperity through sharing; and Laos, ASEAN’s battery.
Still, these two summits can be successful only when all Koreans support them.
Laos embraces the Mekong, “The Mother of All Rivers,” over the longest stretches of any country and is growing as a logistics hub of ASEAN. President Bounnhang and I planted a tree to mark our friendship and common prosperity on the banks of the Mekong. I’d like to see that tree flourish like our love for Laos and ASEAN.
I’ve successfully completed my tour of all 10 ASEAN member states. The people of Laos welcomed me and my delegation with a gentle smile and careful consideration, and I look forward to meeting them again. I return home with renewed hope for our economy.