President Bounnhang and distinguished guests,
I am pleased to join President Bounnhang on a tour of part of the Mekong River Integrated Management Project, a symbol of the friendship between our two countries.
The Mekong is the lifeblood of Indochina, and just as its name indicates, it is the “Mother of All Rivers” – evenly nourishing the countries along its banks. In particular, it is truly meaningful to be able to discuss the future that Korea and the Mekong will paint together in Laos, the country that embraces the river over the longest stretches.
Korea and the Mekong nations have walked similar paths throughout history. We all rose above the pain of colonial rule and achieved growth, preserving our own survival and dignity while stuck between major powers during the Cold War.
Korea rose from the post-war ruins and accomplished the Miracle on the Hangang River. Mekong nations are leading the Asian economy, posting a high economic growth rate of more than 6 percent annually.
The entire world is now paying attention to the development of Mekong region. Dynamism, growth potential and – more than anything else – the spirit of mutual respect shared by the Mekong nations will bring a new future to the global village.
Korea hopes to prosper with the Mekong countries and see the Miracle on the Hangang lead to the Miracle on the Mekong River. To this end, I propose today a three-pronged approach to common prosperity with the Mekong countries.
The first is to achieve prosperity that shares our experiences.
Korea has rich experience in terms of rural development. As part of the efforts to help the Mekong countries generate economic growth engines on the strength of rural development, Korea is providing support for relevant projects in the region with the Korea International Cooperation Agency playing a pivotal role.
We will share our vision to nurture talented individuals and future growth. We will also share technologies to jointly promote industrial development and respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Korea will actively share its development experiences through cooperation between the Korea Development Institute and the Myanmar Development Institute, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and the Myanmar Trade Promotion Organization, and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology and the Vietnam-Korea Institute of Science and Technology.
The second is to promote sustainable prosperity.
When we protect the Mekong River from climate change and natural disasters and utilize its abundant living resources to achieve green growth through bioengineering and medical science, it will lead to sustainable development in the region.
While pursuing cross-border cooperation to help preserve biodiversity in the Mekong region, Korea will also cooperate on forest conservation and water resources management.
The third is to promote peace and mutual prosperity in East Asia.
Countries in the Mekong region are strengthening connectivity for common prosperity. Korea is also pursuing common prosperity through international cooperation on an equal footing. Development gaps must be reduced for the advance of the region, and to this end, various infrastructures have to be built first. Korea will assist the construction of roads, bridges, railroads and ports within the Mekong countries and work together to bolster connectivity.
Korea wishes to partner with Mekong nations for peace and prosperity, moving beyond economic cooperation. Building upon infrastructure construction, agricultural and ICT cooperation and human resource development, Korea will expand mutual understanding through people-to-people exchanges and cultural and tourism collaboration and work together for peace in ASEAN as well.
In Busan this coming November, the inaugural Mekong-Korea Summit will be held together with the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit.
I hope that these summits will provide an opportunity to evaluate the path that Mekong countries and Korea have walked together over the past decade and discuss more deeply the Mekong Vision shared today.
Today, President Bounnhang and I will plant a Mai Kha nhung tree. The tree’s name means “useful to the people,” and in the same vein, I hope that Korea-Mekong cooperation will be carried out in a way that is conducive to all the people in the Mekong region.