Fellow Ministers from Thailand and Myanmar,
Distinguished delegates from the ASEAN member countries,
It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to be here with you and exchange views on issues of mutual concern between Korea and ASEAN. I find this [9+1] session very timely and significant, in that it is the first opportunity for me to share with my ASEAN colleges thoughts of the new Korean government on the dialogue relationship as well as to establish personal friendship and rapport. This is also the first PMC [9+1] meeting since financial crisis gripped countries in our region, including my own country.
Currently, both Korea and ASEAN member countries are confronted with daunting challenges which are unprecedented and of an unknown magnitude.
Once model economies are now making soul-searching efforts to correct their problems and rebuild their economy as a whole. Miracle may be over, but we cannot afford to resign ourselves to the current hardship which can and must be overcome.
In this connection, we should draw important lessons from the ongoing economic challenges.
First, our countries are now much more dependent on each other and our fates are now more closely inter-twined. We are on the same economic boat. Therefore, we should pool our wisdom and resources to turn these crises into opportunities.
Secondly, as we are approaching a new century of global competition, we should not remain cast in our old model. We should adapt ourselves to the new environment where change and innovation are codewords for survival. We should anticipate the changes and take initiatives, instead of just reacting to them. When Prof. Jayakumar said in July 1995, “If we in ASEAN do not move fast and stay ahead of developments, we will be sidelined”, you set the tone and direction not only for ASEAN collaboration but also for the future of Korea-ASEAN relations.
I am very gratified to note that our leaders adopted a joint statement on ASEAN-ROK Cooperation towards the 21st Century, during the first-ever [9+1] summit in Kuala Lumpur, last December.
In the statement, they committed themselves to exert every effort to bring the ASEAN-ROK partnership to a new level to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The statement, the first of its kind in 9-year old dialogue relationship, has reviewed major achievements in all aspects of our relationship and provided an excellent framework and a guideline for bilateral cooperation in the future.
Let me briefly touch upon major achievements and initiatives we have made in our dialogue projects.
First, as a concrete manifestation of our dialogue relationship, the Korean government has contributed a total amount of 13 million US dollars to the ROK-ASEAN Special Cooperation Fund(SCF). By December 1997, SCF had funded 46 cooperation projects in six fields including trade, investment and technology transfer.
Despite Korea’s financial difficulties, our contributions to the Fund this year are expected to maintain the previous level of 2 million dollars. This represents our commitment and priority to Korea-ASEAN dialogue relationship.
Secondly, in order to ensure the efficient use of the Fund, the mechanism for cooperation projects was drastically rationalized by shortening the project approval process and introducing fast track procedures during the workshop on Korea-ASEAN Development Cooperation held in Jakarta in May this year.
It was also agreed upon to launch the Joint Planning and Review Committee (JPRC) to carry out this task more smoothly. I believe that the JPRC could serve as a good model for other ASEAN dialogue relations.
Thirdly, we have agreed to expand the scope of development cooperation to the new Future-Oriented Projects which are aimed to increase mutual understanding through human exchanges in such areas as youth, media and culture. The idea of the Future-Oriented Projects which was presented by Korea during the [7+l] session of ASEAN-PMC held in Jakarta in July, 1996 is about to be materialized very soon. Korea-ASEAN Youth Exchange Programme, first programme under the Future-Oriented Projects, will start in August this year with the visit of ASEAN youth delegates to Korea.
Fourthly, flagship projects between Korea and ASEAN will be carefully selected and carried out soon on a multiyear basis in such priority areas as education environment and science & technology. Now we axe working on these projects.
During the remainder of this year, we are scheduled to have two important meetings on Korea-ASEAN relationship in Korea.
The Korea-ASEAN 21st Century Forum will have its 3rd and last meeting in September and adopt its final report to the governments of both sides. This will be followed by Korea-ASEAN Dialogue in October. I am confident that these meetings will provide another important momentum to deepen our bilateral relationship for both sides.
Last year, ASEAN celebrated the 30th anniversary of its establishment. We are very happy and proud that Korea was able to join the celebration together with our neighbors in North east Asia. As ASEAN is expected to realize its long-cherished dream of Southeast Asia(SEA)-10 by the end of this year and is progressing towards Vision 2020, we hope that the expanded ASEAN will serve not only to strengthen ASEAN resilience but also to consolidate the cooperative relationship happily existing between the two sides.
On a bilateral basis, Korea enjoys excellent relationships with all the ASEAN member countries. On a collective level, ASEAN is the 4th largest trading partner for Korea and the 3rd largest destination of Korea’s foreign direct investment.
In addition to its economic importance, ASEAN is one of major pillars in Korea’s foreign policy, sharing many things with Korea. I assure all of you that under the new Korean government, our relationship will make another take-off in its all aspects.
In this endeavor, none of us is alone. Knowing that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”, Korea will be with you. We hope that ASEAN will stand behind Korea as well. Working together, both Korea and ASEAN will be able to build a meaningful partnership in shaping our new future.
Finally, may I express my most sincere appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Singapore, for the active role as a coordinating country for the Korea-ASEAN dialogue relations since last year,
Also, I wish to pay my deepest tribute to Foreign Minister Jayakumar, who successfully co-chaired this [9+1] meeting.