|President Moon Jae-in delivers his keynote speech at the start of 'South Korea-Malaysia Business Forum' held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, downtown Kuala Lumpur, Thursday afternoon. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
South Korea plans to expand the country's overall trade volume with Malaysia focusing on halal tourism, and hallyu-oriented industries, President Moon Jae-in said, Thursday.
"Malaysia is one of the most important trading partners with South Korea and vice versa. South Korea and Malaysia have a long history within that context on multiple fronts and I think it's a sincere friendship," Moon said during his keynote speech at the start of a business forum packed with executives from South Korean and Malaysian companies, Kuala Lumpur, Thursday afternoon, according to Cheong Wa Dae press pool reports.
Moon said South Korea is hoping to complete the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia within this year to provide a fresh impetus to further vitalize mutual trade.
The two countries agreed "in principle" to sign the FTA on the sidelines of the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir's possible attendance at a special South Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit scheduled later this year in Busan, the biggest port city in Korea.
"Malaysia's iconic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur is a symbol showing solid economic cooperation between the two countries. If we further strengthen bilateral relations, a better future will prevail," Moon told participants, adding a "Malaysia bridge" in South Korea's northern industrial city of Paju is a result of financial assistance from Malaysia in 1960s.
Some 500 business executives from the two countries attended the event. The South Korean leader arrived in the Southeast Asian country on Tuesday for a three-day state visit.
Stressing the continued boom in hallyu (Korean Wave)-related content in countries in Southeast Asia, Moon said what he described as "K-Town" will be developed inside a shopping center in downtown Kuala Lumpur by July this year.
"I expect the center to take a central role with more hybrid content displaying the 'wow factor' of the best aspects of hallyu and halal tourism. About 25 percent of the global population are Muslim, and the global halal market has breached the $2 trillion mark," Moon said.
Trade between the two countries has already been on the rise, apparently helped by South Korea's multilateral FTA with the 10-member ASEAN that went into effect in 2007.
Bilateral trade between South Korea and Malaysia spiked about 15 percent to $19.2 billion last year from about $16.7 billion the year before. Malaysia is currently South Korea's 14th-largest trading partner in the world.