On November 25, the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the first Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit will be held here in Busan to mark the 30th anniversary of establishing the ASEAN-Korea Dialogue Relations. These will be crucial diplomatic events for the common prosperity of Korea and ASEAN and the largest multilateral summits held in Korea under the current Administration. Today’s Cabinet Meeting is being held in Busan, the host city, in order to pool government-wide capabilities, attract public interest and support and, at the same time, take stock of preparations. This is the third Cabinet Meeting held outside of government facilities following those held at the Kim Koo Museum and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.
My Administration has been putting immense changes into practices that differ from those of previous governments on two points. One is the use of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve issues involving the Korean Peninsula, and the other is the drastic upgrading of diplomatic and trade relations with Asia rather than the extension of conventional diplomacy that focused on the four powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula. As part of such efforts, my Administration has been steadily engaging ASEAN member states to promote cooperation with them since its inauguration.
After I took office, I sent a special envoy to ASEAN, the first time in Korean history, to unveil my commitment to stronger cooperation with the region. With this as a starter, I completed visits to all 10 ASEAN member states before the end of this year. Korea’s cooperative relations with ASEAN member states have progressed at an unprecedentedly rapid pace on all fronts, including foreign affairs and the economy as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In addition, the foundation for ushering in a future of common prosperity based on such core values as people, prosperity and peace has been solidifying.
The ASEAN-related summits held last week in Bangkok served as an opportunity to reaffirm all of this. Active support for our New Southern Policy and the resolve to expand cooperation has generated high expectations for the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit. I was also able to confirm that support for peace on the Korean Peninsula within ASEAN remains solid.
In particular, it is truly meaningful that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, involving the Republic of Korea and all 10 ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, has been concluded. The RCEP is the world’s largest mega FTA, accounting for half of the world's population, one-third of global GDP and 30 percent of all trade. If India takes part in the final signing next year, it will have added significance.
Promoting free trade is a must in order to expand the scope of our economy and the mutual prosperity of Korea and ASEAN. From this perspective, the conclusion of the RCEP negotiations will serve as an opportunity to improve conditions for investment and trade between Korea and ASEAN and to further accelerate the implementation of our New Southern Policy. I look forward to the final signing next year opening up the world’s largest free trade market and playing a significant role in disseminating the merits of free trade.
The ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and Mekong-ROK Summit are opportunities for a midterm assessment of the New Southern Policy that my Administration has been wholeheartedly pursuing over the past two and a half years. The policy is a key component of the Republic of Korea’s national development strategies. No other region in the world has a higher growth rate than ASEAN, and it has vast future growth potential. We have to work together with ASEAN to usher in a future of peace and shared prosperity throughout Asia.
By holding the upcoming ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit, Korea will become the first country to have played host to commemorative summits with ASEAN on more than three occasions. We should turn the Summit into an opportunity to drastically enhance mutually beneficial cooperation for future shared growth based on the robust trust between Korea and ASEAN.
The Mekong-ROK Summit will be convened for the first time since the prior talks were upgraded from the ministerial level to that of a summit. It will serve as an opportunity to give substance to the Republic of Korea-Mekong Vision that I unveiled during my trip to the Mekong nations in September and to further broaden the scope of cooperation going forward.
Though relevant ministries and agencies and the City of Busan have been making enormous efforts to prepare for the summits, there are special requests that I’d like to make ahead of the events. The New Southern Policy can be achieved by cooperating with the ASEAN member states. I ask you to make extraordinary efforts to ensure that the spirit of the New Southern Policy, which promotes coordination with the national development strategies of each ASEAN member state, will be well reflected not only through upcoming Commemorative Summit–related functions but also the outcomes of various joint projects. I want to stress that building the foundation for forward-looking, mutually beneficial and sustainable cooperation becomes all the more possible when we think from ASEAN’s perspective.
As a bridging nation connecting the continent and ocean, we aspire to lead peace and prosperity through the New Northern and New Southern policies. Sea and air routes to ASEAN member states start here in Busan. I expect that Korea and ASEAN’s wisdom and capabilities to achieve common prosperity and peace will come together in Busan, a city that connects the continent and ocean.
Most of all, I ask for interest and support not only from the residents of Busan but from all of our citizens. I hope that many people will participate in and enjoy the variety of colorful events coinciding with the summits while providing support to ensure that the summits will be held successfully. I anticipate that the summits will become not only nationally important diplomatic events but also festive venues for our people and the citizens of ASEAN member states.