Asean envoys attend seminar on Korea issues

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Asean envoys attend seminar on Korea issues

GYEONGJU, South Gyeongsang - A seminar last Friday in Gyeongju brought together academics and diplomats to discuss Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The seminar was part of a two-day workshop at the Hilton Hotel in Gyeongju, attended by 60 guests, including journalists from major broadcasting networks and newspaper companies and diplomats in Korea from Asean nations.

John Delury, an assistant professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, explained his thinking about North Korea and its young leader Kim Jong-un. He said most major events in North Korea had recently centered on Kim cementing his grip on power.

“The central focus of all energies has been about legitimizing Kim Jong-un,” Delury said. “He often speaks before his people to legitimize himself as a leader of the people.”

Delury noted that the audience Kim talks to often consists of women and children, which is intended to produce an image that Kim is taking care of the young and fragile.

The next speaker was Hur Kyung-wook, former Korean ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Hur examined the state of the Korean economy and future challenges ahead. He noted that Korea made it into the $1 trillion trade club along with countries such as the United States, China and Germany. He stressed that Korea was relatively resilient in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

“Korea is one of the few countries that didn’t get hit hard by the economic recession,” Hur said, adding that credit ratings for Korea gradually improved.

He also cited a series of challenges facing the country. “Korea’s potential growth rate is constantly decreasing and the problem is [that] the decline is too steep,” he said.

“Korea is the fastest-aging society among OECD countries and that will lead to low productivity,” he said.

One way out of dealing with such a problem, he said, is to ensure more foreign investment in the country.

“We have to do everything to ensure investment. Our Foreign Direct Investment [FDI] is too low compared to Singapore and Hong Kong,”

The event commemorated the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Asean-Korea Center. The center, an intergovernmental organization with Korea and the 10 Asean member states, aims to strengthen relations among those countries.

Chung Hae-moon, secretary-general of the center, offered a welcoming speech in which he gave a brief analysis of Korea’s relations with the Asean countries over the past decades.

“This event will give us a fresh way to look into the evolving ties between Korea and Asean,” the secretary-general said.

He emphasized the competitiveness of Asian countries, saying that Asean has the second-highest annual growth rate and the fourth-largest trade volume.

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