By Jung Joo-ri and Lee Jihae
President Moon Jae-in, arriving on Sept. 5 in Laos on the last leg of his three-nation tour of Southeast Asia, laid out his "Korea-Mekong Vision" for elevating bilateral relations to the level of a "Korea-Mekong partnership for human-centered peace and prosperity."
He and Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith in their summit discussed bilateral cooperation and collaboration in the development of the Mekong River area.
The two leaders agreed that both nations have enhanced practical cooperation in various fields and acknowledged big potential for further partnerships in Laos' development and Korea's New Southern Policy.
They also pledged to facilitate by next year the establishment of "human-centered peace and a prosperous community" to mark the 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of bilateral ties. Korea and Laos formed diplomatic relations in 1974, severed them the following year and reconnected in 1995.
Both presidents welcomed the expansion of joint projects in rural community development and a comprehensive management venture around the Mekong River in Laos. They also pledged cooperation to enhance the standard of living and economic development in Laos.
After their summit, the two sides ratified memorandums of understanding on agriculture, information and communications technology, startups and innovation, and the Economic Development Cooperation Fund, which would grant USD 500 million of aid from 2020-23 to consolidate bilateral cooperation.
Both presidents also visited a business site around the Mekong, where President Moon said in a speech, "We will lay the foundation for mutual prosperity so that Korea and the Mekong region can continue developing together."
President Moon had earlier pledged to pursue with nations around the Mekong "prosperity based on the sharing of experiences," "sustainable prosperity" and "mutual prosperity and peace in East Asia." He said he will specify the measures to achieve these goals in the inaugural Korea-Mekong summit slated for Nov. 25-26 in Busan.
His state visit to Laos also marked the Korean leader's fulfillment of his pledge to visit all 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a process he began in 2017. He is scheduled to return to Korea on Sept. 6.