ASEAN AND KOREA, ‘A PARTNERSHIP OF TRUST AND HAPPINESS’
ASEAN-Korea relations have prospered and reached new heights during the last twenty five years, since the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership was established in 1989. This can be witnessed through a series of momentous events such as the institutionalization of the ASEAN-ROK Summit in 1997, the launch of the ASEAN-Korea Centre, holding of the Commemorative Summit in Jeju, Korea, and the conclusion of the ASEAN-Korea FTA in 2009, the elevation of the ASEAN-Korea relationship to a Strategic Partnership in 2010, and the inauguration of the Mission of the Republic of Korea to ASEAN in 2012. In keeping with this progress, 2014 is anticipated to become an even more meaningful year as it celebrates the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-Korea Dialogue Relations and is the year in which the ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit will be convened. Meanwhile 2015, the year of the launch of the ASEAN Community, will become a milestone for the relations to take yet another leap. The ASEAN-Korea partnership, a partnership based upon trust and happiness, is now looking forward to another fruitful twenty five years in which the two sides go beyond bilateral dimensions and cooperate more closely to address regional and global issues of common interest.
ASEAN, KOREA’S KEY PARTNER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT
ASEAN and Korea are key partners in trade, investment, and construction. The trade volume between the two regions has increased sixteen fold from 8.2 billion USD in 1989 to 135 billion USD in 2013 which for Korea accounts for 13% of its total trade (1,068 billion USD). This surpasses Korea’s trade volumes with EU, Japan and the US, and places ASEAN as Korea’s second largest trading partner behind China. Since the ASEAN-Korea FTA came into full force in 2009, the bilateral trade volume recorded a staggering 80% increase during the last five years (2009-2013) while economic exchanges expanded tremendously in many fronts including in the areas of investment and service. Consequently, ASEAN has now become Korea’s no. 3 investment destination as well as the region from which Korea receives the second most construction orders. Moreover, in order to maximize the benefits of the ASEAN-Korea FTA, negotiations for further liberalization are currently taking place; should this bear fruit, the goal to achieve the target of 150 billion USD in bilateral trade by 2015 and 200 billion USD by 2020 is expected to gain a lot of momentum.
ENHANCED PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGE AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
People-to-people exchanges have been vigorous between ASEAN and Korea. Out of the total 14 million outbound Korean tourists in 2013, 32% or 4.9million people have chosen ASEAN Member States as their destination, making ASEAN the most popular destination for Koreans. Meanwhile, Korea receives nearly 1.6 million visitors from ASEAN countries, which is the third largest number after China and Japan. Furthermore, while Hallyu (Korean wave) has undeniably played an important role in facilitating people-to-people exchanges between ASEAN and Korea, Southeast Asian culture has been gaining huge popularity in Korea as well.
ASEAN PEOPLE IN KOREA, A KEY MEMBER OF KOREA’S MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY
ASEAN people account for 23% or 330,000 people of the total number of foreign residents in Korea (1,450,000). At present, approximately 150,000 people who make up 65% of the 230,000 foreign workers in Korea (E-9 visa holders) are ASEAN nationals and 33% (76,000 people) out of some 230,000 marriage migrants and persons naturalized through marriage are from Southeast Asia. In addition 7,000 Southeast Asian students are currently studying in Korea. As these numbers suggest, people from ASEAN have become an important part in the lives of Koreans. As active constituencies of the Korean society, they contribute not only to Korea’s economic development but also to its transition into a mature multicultural society.
PARTNERS FOR BUILDING AN EAST ASIA COMMUNITY AND ACHIEVING CO-PROSPERITY
In the international sphere, Korea and ASEAN are making joint efforts to establish regional integration and promote peace and co-prosperity in the East Asia region through fulfilling its due role in the ASEAN-led mechanisms such as ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). In addition, Korea is actively participating in forging the ASEAN-centered RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and is maintaining close cooperation with ASEAN to realize the East Asia Economic Community by 2020 -an inspiration set by the Korea-led East Asia Vision Group (EAVG II) – and ultimately the East Asia Community, as envisioned by the EAVG I.