*The following is an excerpt of the article by Kim Chang-nyun, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Mission of the ROK to ASEAN. He has previously served as Director for Trade and Investment Promotion and Director for East Asian Trade at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister-Counselor at the Embassy of the ROK in Indonesia, and Head of Development Planning and General Affairs Unit at the ASEAN-Korea Centre. Please click here for the full article.
First Anniversary of the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit
It would not be an exaggeration to say that November is a month of ASEAN diplomacy. Several ASEAN-related meetings, including the ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN-ROK Summit, the ASEAN Plus Three Summit, and the East Asia Summit, took place in November. This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEAN Summit and related summits were all held in video conference format at the initiative of Vietnam, this year’s ASEAN Chair, for the first time in its history.
In November 2017, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea unveiled the New Southern Policy (NSP) during his visit to Indonesia. The initiative aims to elevate ASEAN-Korean ties to the level of the four major powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula. In this connection, the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit was held in Busan on November 25-26, 2019, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their dialogue relations.
Last year’s commemorative summit was a milestone for the ASEAN-Korea partnership. It was successful not only in terms of its deliverables but also in terms of the numerous commemorative events that were held on the sidelines of the summit. Many of these events, such as ASEAN Fantasia, were attended by the leaders of the member states as well as joined by the peoples of both ASEAN and Korea. In fact, compared to previous commemorative summits, the number of participants increased fivefold.
I have been privileged to work at the forefront of this remarkable development of the ASEAN-Korea partnership, serving as a minister at the Mission of the Republic of Korea to ASEAN since 2019, after my posts at the Korean Embassy to Indonesia and the ASEAN-Korea Centre. Compared to 2010, when I was the Director for Trade between ASEAN and Korea at the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the increased amount of human and material resources invested in ASEAN diplomacy today reflects the heightened level of ASEAN-Korea relations in the last decade.
Current Status of New Southern Policy
In an effort to push forward with the NSP, the Korean government has launched the Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy and restructured the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create the ASEAN Bureau, which traditionally was part of a larger department that also covered other parts of South Asia and the Pacific. The Mission of the ROK to ASEAN has been expanded, while annual contributions to the ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund have doubled to USD14 million.
The government reinforced the role of the ROK Mission to ASEAN to coordinate the implementation of the NSP in collaboration with the Embassies in each ASEAN Member State, carry out cooperative projects, and facilitate cooperation with government bodies and agencies. The number of staff at the mission tripled, and former Vice Foreign Minister has been appointed to head the mission.
This year, despite the pandemic sweeping across the globe, relations between ASEAN and Korea continued to expand. The ROK mission held numerous meetings over video conference to implement and make progress on what was agreed at last year´s commemorative summit and maintain the positive momentum of cooperation. As a case in point, Korea was more proactive than any other country in working on the agreements and deepening relations and cooperation with ASEAN during the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 which was held in April through video conference. Since the meeting, Korea has shared with countries in the region the “K-Quarantine” model and how the country had been dealing with the novel coronavirus through the 3Ts (test, trace and treat). Korea also promptly uted projects worth USD 5 million to assist the testing capabilities for ASEAN Member States. Korea was also the first dialogue partner to contribute USD 1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund which encouraged other countries to join.