Sustaining New Southern Policy amid COVID-19: An ASEAN perspective

*아래는 코리아 헤럴드에 실린 싱가포르 난양공대 라자라트남 국제관계대학원의 지역안보 아키텍처 프로그램 연구원 션호(Shawn Ho)의 기고문 일부입니다. 기사 전문과 국문 버전은 아래 링크를 참고바랍니다.

*The following is an excerpt of Shawn Ho, associate research fellow with the Regional Security Architecture Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Please click the link below for access to full article.


President Moon Jae-in initiated the New Southern Policy (NSP) in order to upgrade relations between the Republic of Korea (Korea) and ASEAN. Since the NSP has come about primarily due to President Moon’s personal interest in and commitment to engaging ASEAN, it is therefore unclear if the NSP will continue beyond his single term in office which will end in May 2022.

The plans to accelerate ASEAN-Korea cooperation this year have been largely put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when a vaccine becomes available, the issue is whether there will be sufficient amounts of the vaccine to reach people around the world. The production and distribution of billions of vaccines worldwide will not be something that can realistically be done within a few months. We must therefore be prepared to live with some form of COVID-19 related restrictions until at least 2022.

When it comes to ASEAN-Korea relations in the context of the COVID-19 world that we currently live in, the pertinent question therefore is: Will Korea’s New Southern Policy outlast COVID-19?
From an ASEAN perspective, the hope is certainly that the NSP will outlast COVID-19. ASEAN would wish for the NSP to continue regardless of who becomes the next Korean President and regardless of how long COVID-19 lasts.

This is because ASEAN always welcomes greater interest from its Dialogue Partners and other countries that wish to upgrade relations with ASEAN to a higher level. This is in line with the concept of ASEAN centrality in which ASEAN seeks to remain as the regional grouping that has the convening power to bring in various extra-regional countries to participate in ASEAN-led multilateralism. In order for ASEAN to continue succeeding in this endeavor, extra-regional countries must see value in their relations with ASEAN which also means that ASEAN must always strive to remain relevant.