I would like to thank the Secretary-General and the Director-General for their briefing and the leaders for their valuable insights.
In the course of responding to COVID-19, the Republic of Korea has consistently adhered to the three principles of openness, transparency and democracy.
To contain the spread of infectious diseases and reduce mortalities, I believe the best way is to conduct intensive contact tracing and diagnosis to promptly identify, isolate, and treat infected persons and their contacts, and also take other necessary measures.
Such actions need to be backed up by swift and timely diagnostic tests.
Through the ‘Emergency Use Authorization’ system, Korea commercialized highly accurate diagnostic reagents early on.
In addition, apart from designated screening stations, ‘drive-thru’ and ‘walk thru’ screening stations and other creative methods were introduced to accelerate the pace of testing.
To overcome infectious diseases, the public should be the principal actors in infectious disease prevention and control efforts.
If we are to practice ‘social distancing’ effectively, without having to resort to containment or lockdowns, it is imperative that we secure the active participation of the public in such efforts.
In addition, there can be greater efficacy in the self-quarantine process if we utilize IT technology, such as the Self-Quarantine and Self-Health Check smartphone applications.
Above all, information gathered through contact tracing as well as all relevant epidemiological data have been made available in a timely and transparent manner, and this has been instrumental in encouraging the voluntary participation of the public.
Together with infectious disease prevention and control measures, the Korean government is also focusing on economic stabilization.
The people will be able to feel emotionally safe and secure and join in the infectious disease prevention and control efforts of the government only when the economy stands firm.
In order to prevent contractions in consumption, investment and industrial activities, Korea has implemented an economic stimulus package to the tune of USD 120 billion. In addition to other measures, we have also extended financial assistance to micro-business owners and the self-employed while relieving their tax burden in order to protect vulnerable groups.
With a view to strengthening solidarity and policy coordination to overcome the COVID-19 crisis among ASEAN+3 members, I would like to propose the following.
First, active bilateral and multilateral cooperation within the region will be essential to provide infectious disease prevention and control as well as medical supplies in a timely manner to those in urgent need.
Korea will secure additional funding for humanitarian assistance and respond to the fullest extent possible to any calls for help from other countries, including ASEAN.
We are also discussing ways to utilize the ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund.
I hope we can overcome the COVID-19 crisis together by mobilizing all the resources at our disposal, including the assistance made through trust funds at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as well as funding pooled at the ASEAN+3 level.
Second, we must strengthen the regional health cooperation mechanisms to actively share and utilize the information and clinical data that each country has accumulated.
To that end, I propose establishing an ‘ASEAN-ROK Health Ministers’ Dialogue Channel,’ in addition to the ASEAN+3 Health Ministers’ Meeting.
Through ‘ASEAN-ROK Web Seminars,’ we can share our prevention and control policies against COVID-19 and experiences, invite health experts from ASEAN at the earliest possible date, organize on-site visits to the front lines, hold roundtables with health experts, and connect ASEAN member states with Korean companies to facilitate direct support.
The ASEAN+3 countries must also step up efforts to develop ‘vaccines and therapeutics.’
Korea is collaborating closely with GAVI, the vaccine alliance, CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), and the International Vaccine Institute as well as other relevant international organizations. Together with ASEAN+3 member states, we will actively participate in the international community’s efforts to develop vaccines.
Third, in order to minimize the negative repercussions on the global economy, we must maintain the essential flow of economic and people to people exchanges, trade, investment and food.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, the WTO has forecasted that global trade will contract by as much as 32%. I hope that the global supply chain will be made operational to the maximum extent beginning with ASEAN+3. Last November, we agreed on the RCEP framework, and if we can sign the agreement this year, this will provide us with a major boost.
Furthermore, to the extent that we do not undermine each country’s infectious disease prevention and control efforts, I propose that we seek ways to allow for the travel of essential persons such as business leaders, medical professionals, and humanitarian workers.
Recently, the UN FAO warned of a potential food crisis in vulnerable regions due to COVID-19. If such crisis becomes reality, vulnerable groups will be placed in an even more dire situation.
Countries in Asia must refrain from restricting food exports and instead work together to maintain a continuous flow in the food supply chain.
I hope that the ‘ASEAN+3 Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR)’ launched in 2012 will be adequately prepared so that it can be swiftly utilized at any moment.
In the face of every major challenge, the ASEAN+3 countries have overcome the crisis together through cooperation. The Republic of Korea will stand with ASEAN+3 and work together to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome the economic crisis.
I hope today’s summit will once again reaffirm Asia’s cooperation and solidarity in surmounting the COVID-19 crisis.