Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations.
South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human exchanges 100-fold. I believe the purpose of the South Korea-ASEAN special summit is to craft a blueprint for the future by building on previous achievements,” Lim Sung-nam said at a press conference in Busan earlier in the week to kick off a train ride organized to celebrate the ties between South Korea and ASEAN.
“Rather than (viewing it as) a final destination, we hope the summit will usher in South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy 2.0,” he added.
In the run-up to the summit the ASEAN-Korea Center, an intergovernmental organization that promotes economic and sociocultural cooperation between ASEAN and Korea, launched a three-day train voyage called “ASEAN-Korea Train: Advancing Together.”
Some 140 government representatives, businesspeople, academics, artists, media professionals and young people from 10 ASEAN countries are riding the train along with 60 counterparts from South Korea. The delegation is to travel across the country until Friday.
The purpose of the journey, hosted by South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was to celebrate the 30 years of partnership between ASEAN and South Korea and to usher in a stronger future of prosperity and peace, the organization said.
South Korea and ASEAN initiated a dialogue partnership in 1989 and have since become crucial partners for peace, trade and cultural exchanges, bolstered even more by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s signature New Southern Policy.
“Cooperation and exchange begins with people. The ASEAN-Korea Train is meaningful in that it will lay a firm foundation for delegations from 10 ASEAN countries and South Korea to better understand each other and form a friendly bond. This will also (help) them to work together for the future,” Lee Hyuk said.
Echoing Lim and Lee, U Thant Sin said, “The past 30 years have witnessed an exemplary growth not just in quantity (but) also quality, which has pulled the two regions closer, connecting government, businesses and people like never before. Over the years ASEAN has become a resilient supporter to Korea’s policy to achieve peace and (stability) on the Korean Peninsula.”
He noted that ASEAN is Korea’s second-largest trade and investment partner as well as its most popular tourist destination, while Korea is ASEAN’s No. 5 economic partner and its top destination for work, study and travel.
As the host of the summit, Busan Mayor Oh said the city will do its best to ensure the success of the summit in a smooth and safe manner, and to use it as an opportunity to promote Busan as an attractive tourist destination that offers both city life and beautiful natural surroundings.
Meanwhile, the three-day trip includes visits to Gyeongju, Busan, Suncheon and Gwangju, where participants will take part in economic, cultural and peace celebrations — representing all 3Ps of the New Southern Policy. The 3Ps are people, prosperity and peace.