|South Korean Park Hang-seo, who coaches Vietnam's national football team, receives birthday congratulations from Vietnamese fans at an airport in the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 4, as he arrives for the Asian Cup 2019. Park is treated as Vietnam's national hero, leading Korean football fans to support his team fervently. This, together with Korea's excessive focus on the country in terms of investment and tourist arrivals, has alienated the rest of ASEAN countries from Korea. Yonhap|
By Oh Young-jin
South Korea's New Southern Policy, aimed at boosting ties with ASEAN nations, is backfiring because it is focused on Vietnam at the expense of the other nine members, Hankook Ilbo reported Thursday from Hanoi.
The Korean newspaper, the sister paper of The Korea Times, quoted an ASEAN source as saying: "Korea is preoccupied with Vietnam. If this doesn't change, the other members' interests and goodwill toward Korea will cool down."
The source said the ASEAN nations have looked to Korea as a counterbalance to China and Japan that have too much influence on them. ASEAN has emerged as Korea's new diplomatic focus for its growing trade volumes and strategic importance, so much so that the current Moon Jae-in administration declared its diplomatic refocus.
The paper pointed to a surge of anti-Korean sentiment in Malaysia after Koreans unilaterally supported Vietnam in its ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) final last month against Malaysia. Korean Park Hang-seo is head coach of Vietnam's team and is treated as a national hero.
Hankook Ilbo quoted a source from the association of Korean businessmen as saying: "Some Malaysians feel a sense of betrayal toward Koreans." Malaysia's loss to Vietnam is the main reason for it but the fact Korea is biased in Vietnam's favor in terms of investment doesn't help, the source told the paper.
According to KOTRA, Korea's trade promotion body, Vietnam drew about 60 percent of Korea's foreign investment cases destined for ASEAN in the first nine months of last year, which accounted for $2.47 billion, or 50 percent, of the total.
About 3.48 million Koreans visited Vietnam last year, up 44 percent from the previous year, or about half those who visited ASEAN countries.