A win-win Asean partnershipA two-day summit meeting brings together today President Lee Myung-bak and leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jeju Island. The meeting, specially organized to commemorate two decades of Korea?Asean partnership, underscores Korea’s aspiration to stretch its diplomatic horizons beyond the four major powers - the United States, China, Japan and Russia - and bolster its standing in Asia. To assure the meeting does not end up as a mere showcase, Korea must prove itself to be a successful host by reaching concrete and productive outcomes.
Asean - referring to Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam - has evolved into a vital political and economic bloc.
To Korea, it is the third-largest trade partner following China and the European Union, and the second-largest market for overseas investment and construction orders. For every 10 foreigners working here in Korea, three are from Asean member countries. Among 100,000 new couples settling in Korea per year, 25 percent, or 26,000 persons, are from Asean.
Southeast Asia is now a workplace and home to 250,000 Koreans and a major market for Korean entertainers.
For the Republic of Korea, stuck in the middle between China and Japan, strengthening the relationship with Asean is very important in order to secure greater diplomatic leverage. Asean members appear skeptical in talks of building a bigger Asian bloc led by China and Japan. Meanwhile, Korea, without a history of imperial invasion, can be considered an attractive and formidable partner in the economic and cultural spheres.
The government should strive to entice interest and cooperation from Asean leaders based on confidence in Korea through this summit meeting.
Within the framework of Asean Plus Three, encompassing Asean with Korea, China and Japan for broader Asian ties, Korea carried out a contributing role to provide a vision of Asian integration. Korea can secure itself room to lead the integration discussion in a practical sense beyond the role of simple provider of an idea if we cooperate with the Asean.
We anticipate the government will strengthen the foundation for a closer and extensive partnership with Asean not only in economic matters, but also in politics, social and cultural affairs and thus construct a win-win strategy via the Jeju summit meeting.