Honorable ASEAN heads of state and government, distinguished business leaders,
I welcome you all to Busan, the largest port city in the Republic of Korea.
It is very meaningful for me to speak today about the vision of Korea-ASEAN economic cooperation under the theme “Prosperity for All” in front of CEOs from ASEAN and Korea.
As a conduit connecting different people and civilizations, East Asia’s seas served as trade routes, opening an age of the ocean and trade. From early on, merchants in Java, the Ayutthaya Kingdom and the Majapahit Empire made trips to Korea via China or through sea routes. East Asian merchants expanded trade by setting prices in silver in the late 17th century, becoming the main players of global maritime trade.
That centuries-old legacy of trade is now gradually pushing East Asia into the center of the global economy once again.
The ASEAN-Korea Dialogue Partnership established 30 years ago and the ASEAN-Korea FTA that came into effect 12 years ago are the results of vibrant exchanges throughout the history of East Asia.
Just as ocean-going merchants built maritime empires long ago, business leaders engaging in transnational activities are the main actors leading the Asian and global economies today.
By concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, we are heralding the era of an East Asia trade network.
Today, I’m pleased to discuss a new age of trade with the East Asian business leaders here in Busan, a city that connects the continent to the ocean.
Distinguished business leaders,
ASEAN and Korea are rapidly growing close.
Trade volume between the two sides has increased to US$160 billion, and their mutual in- and outbound investments exceed US$10 billion each year. ASEAN is Korea’s second largest trade partner and its third biggest investment destination. Korea is ASEAN’s fifth largest trade partner.
Korea’s Daelim Industrial Co., Samsung C&T Corporation, Lotte Chemical Corporation and POSCO are adding their strengths to the construction of the Temburong Bridge, Brunei’s longest, Viet Nam’s first LNG terminal and Indonesia’s large-scale petrochemical complex and steel industry.
Joint technology development in the biohealth and ICT sectors, the creation of an industrial complex and startup collaborations are making the framework for mutually beneficial cooperation with Singapore and Myanmar even stronger.
The scope of inter-governmental cooperation is also increasing. Cooperation is deepening and expanding as well from such areas as foreign affairs, commerce, trade and investments into infrastructure, culture, defense and the environment.
The Republic of Korea will become a part of a “community growing together” with ASEAN, going beyond being friends.
The Korean people love the foods and landscapes of ASEAN, and the people of ASEAN love Hallyu, the Korean Wave. More than 11 million people travel back and forth between our two sides annually – with more than 1,200 flights every week.
With a huge market of 650 million people and abundant natural resources, ASEAN is achieving high annual growth of 5 percent.
Korea has a history of success – transforming its economic structure through manufacturing and trade after overcoming colonial rule and war. Having emerged as an IT powerhouse, it became the first in the world to commercialize 5G services and has accumulated know-how in cutting-edge industries through the latest semiconductor and mobile phone technologies.
Korea and ASEAN share more similarities in terms of history and culture than any other regions. For ASEAN, which has limitless growth potential and a population with an average age of 29, Korea is indeed a trustworthy and optimal partner. Together with Korea, ASEAN will become a “community growing together” faster and further.
We also share the “Asian spirit.” ASEAN, which cherishes nature and has kept diverse religions, races, cultures and political systems in harmonious coexistence, offers a solution for how to move toward an inclusive and sustainable world. The Republic of Korea will always work together with ASEAN to create a new world order.
Distinguished business leaders,
Today, I put forth three means of cooperation for a “community growing together.”
The first is a “people-centered, inclusive cooperation.”
Human beings are indeed the key growth engines. In order to strengthen the capabilities of small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for 99 percent of the ASEAN economy, we will expand technical and vocational education and training programs and strive to foster high-caliber individuals through scholarship programs and higher education projects.
The Republic of Korea will provide assistance to establish such educational and research institutions as the Vietnam-Korea Institute of Science and Technology and the Myanmar Development Institute to share our experience with economic development.
We will also strengthen cooperation in rural development with Mekong countries so that the “can-do” confidence of Korea’s Saemaul Undong extends into a “miracle on the Mekong River.”
The second is “cooperation for mutual prosperity and innovative growth.”
Korea and ASEAN will jointly enhance our competitiveness in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by expanding technology-related cooperation and the foundation of trade.
Korea-ASEAN cooperation on nurturing startups will be a driving force that leads the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I hope that the formation of joint startup funds and a startup ecology will help create more unicorn enterprises.
A new southern business cooperation center to be created next year will help accelerate Korean businesses’ advance into ASEAN member states and become a cornerstone that strengthens the competitiveness of ASEAN-based companies.
In addition to the RCEP, concluded in early November, and the Korea-Indonesia CEPA Agreement, concluded today, the Korean Government will continue to expand bilateral FTA networks with Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia and other ASEAN member states.
The third is cooperation to strengthen connectivity.
ASEAN is working hard to strengthen connectivity. Korea will help build ASEAN’s infrastructure by utilizing its strengths in transportation, energy and smart city development. Through the Global Infrastructure Cooperation Conference and the Korea-ASEAN Infrastructure Deputy Ministers Meeting, we will find ways to cooperate that meet ASEAN’s needs.
We will also increase cooperation funds for ASEAN and Mekong countries. The ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund has been doubled to US$14 million annually, beginning this year. The Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund will expand to US$3 million annually by next year.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula will lead to peace in East Asia, and it is the starting point for connecting the economies of East Asia into one. I look forward to ASEAN continuing its spirit of engagement that helped North Korea be accepted as a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. If we are able to successfully pass the remaining critical junctures going forward such as a third North Korea-United States summit for complete denuclearization and a permanent peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula, East Asia will be reborn as a genuine single community.
Honorable leaders of ASEAN member states and distinguished business leaders,
Busan, where many refugees lived together, has been a city of inclusiveness where people in need embraced each other. ASEAN, which took part in the Korean War and sent rice and other supplies during difficult times, has been another of Busan’s friendly neighbors.
ASEAN is Korea's eternal friend and Korea and ASEAN belong to one community with a shared destiny. We will always stand by each other in a belief that ASEAN’s development equals Korea’s.
Asia is the future of the world. I hope that with the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit, our friendship will deepen further and our sense of responsibility will grow larger. I look forward to jointly creating a mutually prosperous future together.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude once again to the ASEAN and business leaders who have gathered in Busan.