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Busan invites Kim to Asean-Korea summit

Jan 08,2019
The Busan city government last Thursday announced a plan to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a summit between South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the city this year.

“We will seal Busan’s role as the host of the conference in the near future and begin preparations for the ceremony,” said Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don at a New Year’s press conference at Busan city hall on Thursday, adding that negotiations with the central government are proceeding smoothly.

“[Imagine] President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong-un discussing an East Asian railway network while riding on the KTX, and the two leaders walking side-by-side along a mountain of shipping containers at Busan’s new harbor - the symbol of international shipping,” Oh said.

South Korea is slated to host a summit with Asean around November or December this year, as per a suggestion by Moon at Seoul’s previous summit with the Southeast Asian countries in Singapore last November. At the time, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Kim Jong-un’s attendance would give the meeting greater significance, and Moon replied that he would actively consider inviting Kim.

All 10 heads of state of Asean are expected to attend this year’s summit, along with around 4,000 business leaders from Southeast Asia and South Korea. Moon and the Asean leaders will discuss cooperation in 20 fields including security, society, culture, economy, environment and energy, and various bilateral summits will also be held on its sidelines.

The city governments of Seoul, Incheon and Busan have publicly submitted their bids to host the summit to the central government.

Busan’s host bid was backed up by its chamber of commerce, whose representatives submitted a statement to the government last Thursday arguing that the city was best suited to pave the way for Moon’s proposed New Southern Policy due to its experience hosting the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and 2014 South Korea-Asean summit.

The city is equipped with all the necessary infrastructure to host an international event like convention centers, hotels, tourism sites and transportation, and past experience provides Busan with the most competitiveness among the bidders, the statement read.

Since this summit will focus on reaffirming Southeast Asian countries’ support for peace on the Korean Peninsula and strengthening ties between Asean and South Korea - as defined by Moon’s signature New Southern Policy - Busan’s role as the maritime gateway holds particular significance, it added.

Business leaders in the city hope that a summit in Busan can help breathe new life into the regional economy, which has been mostly stagnant due to a recent waning in the shipping industry. Companies in the region hope to forge new ties to the Southeast Asian market and raise the profile of Busan-based firms in Asean countries.

“All history is built through creative thought and determined action,” Oh said. “If we propose first and work towards it, it will happen.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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