Korean people from all walks of life have spoken highly of Vietnam and its role in the Republic of Korea (RoK)’s New Southern Policy that was introduced by the government of President Moon Jae-in in 2017 to reduce the RoK’s heavy reliance on the US, China, Japan and the European Union (EU).
According to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), Chairman of the RoK Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy Joo Hyung Chul made the comment on the threshold of the 2019 ASEAN-RoK Commemorative Special Summit set to take place in the southern city of Busan from November 25 to 26 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the dialogue partnership between ASEAN and the RoK. It, together with the Mekong-RoK Summit expected to take place right after, is said to be the biggest international event the ROK hosts under the Moon Jae-in administration.
“I believe that the RoK-Vietnam ties play the most important role in the promotion of the New Southern Policy and in the push of RoK-Mekong region cooperation as well as the RoK-ASEAN relations”, said the Chairman who is also the Adviser to President Moon Jae-in for economic affairs in an interview given to the VNA correspondent in Seoul.
According to the official, it can be said that the RoK-Vietnam cooperation ties in recent years have become better than ever and is an ideal model that the RoK-ASEAN, the RoK-Mekong and the New Southern Policy target and pursue.
“Based on the pattern of relations between the two countries, we will push up the non-stop development of cooperation ties with other countries in the Mekong subregion”, said the Chairman, adding that the RoK government would closely work with Vietnam in the process in order to promote and make progress toward the co-prosperity among Vietnam, RoK and the other nations in the Mekong river area.
Sharing the viewpoints, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Ph D. Lee Jaehyon, stressed the role and position of Vietnam in his country’s New Southern Policy attaching the importance on and strengthening the relationships with ASEAN countries and India.
“For the success of the New Southern Policy in the second phase starting next year, Vietnam’s contribution is vital”, said the scholar specializing on ASEAN and Oceania studies, explaining that Vietnam will be the chair country of ASEAN and non-permanent member of the United Nation Security Council while South Korea enters the second phase of its New Southern Policy.
And in 2020 Việt Nam will also coordinate the cooperation between the RoK and Mekong river countries, so Vietnam’s role will be more important, added Chairman Joo Hyung Chul.
“There is a lot of things Vietnam and the RoK can do together regionally and globally’, said the scholar, mentioning Vietnam’s contribitions to the peace and prosperity on the Korean Penisular. “Vietnam has close relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and is one of the best countries able to give the country fundamental advices on opening up, reform and denuclearisation”, he explained.
In addition to, the Korean scholar expressed his belief that as the chair of ASEAN Vietnam will lead ASEAN countries in developing strategic relations with South Korea and the two countries can disscuss ways to reduce negative impacts from the ongoing China-US trade war as well as the impact of the strategic competition between the two super powers.
“In the global with many changes such as the ongoing US-China war, Japan’s tightening regulations on exports to the RoK, Vietnam is our leading economic partner. It is possible to say that Vietnam and the RoK are undetachable partners”, said the President Moon Jae-in’s advisor.
Regarding to the RoK-Vietnam current relations, sharing the good assessments made by Joo Hyung Chul and Lee Jaehyon, Chol Young Joo, Chairman of the Korea-Vietnam Friendship Association (KOVIFA), said that since the diplomatic establishment in 1992, the RoK-Vietnam relations have developed in all of the fields, including politics, diplomacy, economy, culture, education, sports and art.
“The exchanges and cooperation between the two countries are expanding at the central and local levels”, said KOVIFA Chairman, quoting impressive two-way trade turnover of USD 68.2 billion in 2018, up as many as 130 times from the year 1992.
In the fields of economy, Vietnam is the RoK's third largest export market (after China and the US) and the fourth largest trading partner (after China, the US, and Japan). Meanwhile, in the investment sector, Vietnam has emerged as the RoK's third largest investment destination, pouring in approximately 66.5 billion USD in the Southeast Asia country in the period from January 1988 to June 2019, said the KOVIFA Chairman who is also Chairman and CEO of Panko Corporation with garment bases in Vietnam’s southern province of Binh Duong and central province of Quang Nam.
“Our relations with Vietnam are kind of the high among ASEAN countries and is deep and wide”, assessed the Korean scholar, adding that the RoK-Vietnam bilateral trade accounts for 50% of the total trade value with all ASEAN countries.
As for the socio-cultural relations between the RoK and Vietnam, the South Koreans’ number one destination among the ASEAN countries is Vietnam, he said, expecting the two countries’ relations will go further and deepen further in the upcoming years.
“With the already laid social, cultural and economic relations, the basis of the bilateral cooperation, the bilateral relations will grow”, affirmed the scholar while mentioning a quite number of Vietnamese students in the RoK and their good performance. “They will graduate, leave Korea, back to Vietnam and be bridges between the two countries”, he said.
According to the RoK Ministry of Education, the number of Vietnamese students living in the RoK last year exceeded 27,000 and is increasing each year. The Korean language and the Korean Study are currently available at 28 universities in Vietnam.
The Korean Wave in Vietnam is gradually expanding with K-drama, K-Pop, K-Beauty and K-Food. Vietnam’s national football team coach Park Hang-seo is in the center of the Korean Wave in Vietnam. As he has led Vietnam’s team to high achievements, the Korean image and affinity for Vietnam are rising.
“The Korean cultural, physical and artistic leaders in Vietnam, including Park Hang-seo, will contribute to the development of culture and sports in Vietnam”, the KOVIFA Chairman said.
After attending the RoK-ASEAN Commemorative Special Summit and the RoK-Mekong Summit in Busan, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will pay an official visit to the RoK on 27-28 November. The visit is taking place in the context Vietnam and the RoK is celebrating the 10th anniversary of upgrading the bilateral ties to the Strategic Cooperation Partnership level.
While answering the significance of the visit, the KOVIFA Chairman said he expected the two countries would upgrade the bilateral relation from the current “Strategic Cooperative Partnership” to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” level.
In March 2018, President Moon Jae-in held a meeting with top four Vietnamese leaders and proposed to upgrade the relations.
“The bilateral relations have increased quantitatively over the past 27 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. In the future, the negative sides will need to be resolved wisely and wisely by mutual understanding, dialogues and cooperation”, said the KOVIFA Chairman.
According to him, to push and strengthen the bilateral relations in the future, the two countries should expand people to people exchanges by designing home stay tours; encouraging sisterhood relationship between schools, villages and groups; conducting joint research project of bilateral scholars and experts; and developing joint programs for youth entreupreneus.