Mr Co-Chairman,
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my ASEAN colleagues and on my own behalf, I have pleasure in welcoming my colleague His Excellency Mr. Park Chung Soo, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, and the members of his delegation, to this year’s Post-Ministerial Conference. I am happy to meet Minister Park again, after our meeting at ASEM II in April.

Development Cooperation

Excellency,

  1. It has been a year since Singapore took over the country coordinatorship of the ASEAN-ROK Dialogue. We face major financial and economic challenges that have altered the political and social landscape of our countries and our region. But we are working hard to put our economies back on the path of sustained growth and development. I am confident that we will succeed.
  2. Not all events since our last PMC in Kuala Lumpur have been difficult. ASEAN and ROK met at the summit level. I am pleased to note that concrete steps have been taken to advance the ASEAN-ROK relationship.
  3. At our last PMC session, we had noted the concern over the low utilisation of the ASEAN-ROK Special Cooperation Fund (“the SCF”) and the slow pace of implementation of cooperation projects. As a result, a Workshop comprising the ROK, the ASEAN Secretariat, the Philippines and Singapore was convened in September last year to brainstorm solutions and set priorities for ASEAN-ROK development cooperation.
  4. Many constructive recommendations were made, supported by the ASEAN members and the ROK. A second Workshop was held in May this year to consolidate and follow-up on these recommendations. We have agreed to shorten the project approval procedures, as well as to establish a Joint Planning and Review Committee (“JPRC”) to serve as an oversight committee, manage project implementation, and guide the future direction of the dialogue. The inaugural JPRC meeting will be convened by February next year.
  5. We have also identified priority areas of cooperation and agreed to undertake Flagship Projects. The priority areas for future ASEAN-ROK cooperation projects will be in Education, the Environment, and Science & Technology, with a focus on Human Resources Development. Both the ROK and ASEAN sides have submitted preliminary concept papers on Flagship Projects. These are under consideration.
  6. This will improve the utilisation of the Special Cooperation Fund, and ensure that cooperation projects are of high quality with maximum impact on the participating countries. In this regard, the SCF has an important role in assisting newer ASEAN member countries integrate into our region.
  7. I must commend the ROK on its initiative on the Future-Oriented Cooperation Projects in youth, media and culture. The youth exchange component will be implemented next month, with the visit of ASEAN youth to Korea. The visit of Korean youth to various ASEAN countries is scheduled to take place before the end of 1998. These projects, aimed at furthering our people-to-people exchanges, are important building blocks in nurturing a spirit of mutual understanding and regional cooperation, and passing it on to the next generation.
  8. This brings me to the ASEAN-ROK Forum for the 21st Century – the committee of eminent persons, established to examine ways to strengthen and enhance our cooperation into the next century. I am happy to note that this committee has already held its second meeting on 24-25 February 1998 in Singapore. A list of recommendations was drawn up and it was agreed that it should form the basis of the discussions at the third and final session of the Forum, scheduled to be held in Seoul this September. We look forward to the successful conclusion of its important work.
  9. The 4th ASEAN-ROK Dialogue will also be held in Seoul, in October this year. I hope the meeting will follow-up on the recommendations of the 21st Century Forum as well as the earlier two Workshops on ASEAN-ROK Development Cooperation.

    Economic and political cooperation

    Excellency,

  10. Since 1991 when we established full dialogue partnership with the ROK, our cooperation has made good progress, most notably, in trade and investment. In 1996, ASEAN was ROK’s 5th largest trading partner. In 1996, ROK’s trade with ASEAN amounted to US$31.5 billion, and increase of 14.9% compared to 1995 (Source : IMF Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook 1997). ROK’s exports to ASEAN in 1996 amounted to US$20.2 billion, an increase of 12.8% compared to 1995, and ROK’s imports from ASEAN in 1996 reached US$11.3 billion, an increase of 18.7% compared to 1995.
  11. Although the Asian economic crisis has affected ASEAN-ROK trade, the difficulties are not insurmountable. It is essential that investor confidence be quickly restored. The reforms that Southeast Asian countries have begun to embark upon are an essential component of the recovery process. In difficult times, the temptation to compromise an the principles of market openness and liberalisation is strong. But further liberalisation is the only viable long-term solution. It is equally important for major developed countries to remain engaged in the region. This will assist in building up confidence in the region.
  12. ASEAN countries, under the Manila Framework, are also committed to a concerted regional effort to restore confidence to the region. We believe that a revitalised and vibrant Korean economy is vital for the recovery of East Asian economies, Korea is a significant export market for many East Asian exporters, as well as one of the largest foreign investors in the region.
  13. On the political and security front, ASEAN recognises the need to establish some form of a peace mechanism for the Korean peninsula. We have an interest in the peace and stability of Northeast Asia. Any instability in that region will adversely affect the economic development of the entire Asia-Pacific. Southeast Asia will not be spared. We welcome President Kim Dae Jung’s “Sunshine Policy” towards the DPRK. KEDO is also an important initiative.

    Conclusion

    Excellency,

  14. ASEAN appreciates the importance that Korea has attached to our dialogue, and to its continued support of the ASEAN-ROK Special Cooperation Fund. We hope that through our regular consultations in the JPRC and dialogue meetings, we can find- fresh ways and means to add more Value to the process. The ASEAN-ROK dialogue is moving at a faster and more constructive pace than some of our other dialogues. This is certainly encouraging and augurs well for the future of our relationship.