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ASEAN-Korea Forum highlights sustainable partnership

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Participants of the ASEAN-Korea Forum pose at the Chey Jong-Hyun Hall of Korea University, Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre
Participants of the ASEAN-Korea Forum pose at the Chey Jong-Hyun Hall of Korea University, Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Scholars and policymakers from Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states gathered to discuss ways to sustain Korea-ASEAN relations in the long term at the ASEAN-Korea Forum held in the Chey Jong-Hyun Hall of Korea University, Seoul, Thursday.

Co-organized by the ASEAN-Korea Centre (AKC), the Korea University Asiatic Research Institute ASEAN Center and the Korea Academic Council on the United Nations System (KACUNS), this year's forum centered on a sustainable partnership between Korea and the ASEAN.

ASEAN-Korea Centre Secretary-General Kim Hae-yong delivers opening remarks during the ASEAN-Korea Forum. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre
ASEAN-Korea Centre Secretary-General Kim Hae-yong delivers opening remarks during the ASEAN-Korea Forum. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre

Kim Hae-yong, secretary-general of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, delivered the opening remarks at the ASEAN-Korea Forum, which envisions the future of the Korea-ASEAN partnership through intellectual exercises.

He noted how the ASEAN and Korea have become indispensable partners since the establishment of the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership in 1989.

"The world now faces many challenges that could threaten to disrupt the peace of the global order in the long run. Amid geopolitical concerns such as the Sino-U.S. rivalry and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there are also the impending global issues of climate change, supply chain disruptions, the energy crisis, food insecurity, and many more," Kim said during his opening remarks.

"However, such challenges and hardships cannot be fully overcome alone. In order to turn these difficulties into opportunities, cooperation is all the more important in the international arena," Kim explained the context behind the forum's theme, "Cooperation for a Sustainable ASEAN-Korea Partnership."

Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, delivered the keynote speech.

Having served as the secretary-general of the ASEAN from 2003 to 2007, Ong is an expert in the ASEAN's role in building a regional architecture as well as the ASEAN's relations with external parties.

Ong welcomed the Korean government placing a high priority on policy toward the ASEAN, reinforced by President Yoon Suk-yeol's announcement of the country's Indo-Pacific strategy during the recent ASEAN-Korea Summit in Cambodia.

"Many of us in ASEAN are looking forward to the implementation of the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI) in the coming months as the ROK continues to strengthen cooperation and collaboration," Ong said.

Ong noted the concerns and challenges shared by the ASEAN and Korea such as climate change, healthcare, pollution, cyber security, energy security and food security.

"I wish to highlight the need for political will and consistent implementation of the great plans by our leaders and officials to tackle such challenges," he said.

Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and former ASEAN Secretary-General, gives the keynote speech during the ASEAN-Korea Forum. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre
Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and former ASEAN Secretary-General, gives the keynote speech during the ASEAN-Korea Forum. Courtesy of ASEAN-Korea Centre

The first session invited scholars from both the ASEAN and Korea to assess the major challenges the region faces.

Moderated by Korea University assistant professor of political science and international relations Shin Jae-hyeok, associate professor of political science and international relations Paik Woo-yeal of Yonsei University and associate research fellow Shawn Ho from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore discussed political issues.

Phi Vinh Tuong, acting director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, and Lee Choong-lyol, an economics professor at Korea University, presented economic issues, while Kim Hyung-jun of Kangwon National University and Dafri Agussalim of Gadjah Mada University of Indonesia dealt with socio-cultural topics.

In the second session, Chung Eui-hae, director-general at ASEAN and Southeast Asian Affairs Bureau of Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs elaborated on the country's Indo-Pacific strategy and the aim of upgrading the multilateral relations to comprehensive strategic partnership by 2024.

Chung outlined the vision of Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy pursuing free, peaceful and prosperous region with inclusiveness, trust and reciprocity as guiding principles.

She emphasized that Korea's strategy is very inclusive, not targeting a certain country.

"One of the guiding principles of our Indo-Pacific strategy is that it is an inclusive strategy where we would like to work with like-minded partners underpinned by shared values and norms. It is not targeting or seeking to exclude anyone. We are open to working with all the countries that have these values and principles. I think given where we are in the midst of the U.S.-China rivalry, there are a lot of questions that arise as to where Korea is taking a stand and I think this is a position that a lot of the ASEAN partners also face," Chung said.

"Hedging has worked to an extent, (but) it is becoming increasingly harder. I think it's a position that all countries face at the moment ― countries like ASEAN and Korea. That is why I think ASEAN and Korea really have an added impetus and incentive to work together to ensure that we create as much strategic room in the Indo-Pacific region for countries like Korea and ASEAN, to create a space where countries do not face pressures to make choices."

Sim Vireak, director-general of General Department of ASEAN at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia and Robert Matheus Michael Tene, deputy secretary-general of the ASEAN Secretariat for the ASEAN Political-Security Community, shared their thoughts on the future of Korea-ASEAN relations, followed by an analysis by Lee Jae-hyon, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The final session explored the Korea-ASEAN partnership from the youth's perspective, featuring winners of the 2022 ASEAN-Korea Academic Essay Contest.

Lee Hee-seo of Ewha Womans University, Ericka Mega, Fransisca Fleicia Paschaline and Rama Ardhia Prastita of Indoneisa and Rovenz Vinzent Cortez and Carla Reanna Velasco from the Philippines presented their award-winning essays.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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