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 pivotal 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 particular, the convening of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in 2014 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations gave further momentum to the Strategic Partnership.
Furthermore, 2015 – the year in which the ASEAN Community is to be launched – 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 of economic cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, and construction. The trade volume between the two regions has increased 17 fold from 8.2 billion USD in 1989 to 138 billion USD (Export: 84.6 billion USD, Import: 53.4 billion USD) in 2014, and ASEAN has surpassed US, EU and Japan to become Korea’s second largest trade partner after China. Since the ASEAN-Korea FTA came into full force in 2009, economic cooperation has expanded in various areas such as in investment and service, making ASEAN the second largest investment destination. Moreover, once negotiations to further liberalize the ASEAN-Korea FTA bear fruit, the goal of achieving the target of 150 billion USD in bilateral trade by 2015 and 200 billion USD by 2020 will gain impetus. Together with the invigoration of business related to ASEAN Connectivity – a core component of ASEAN Economic Community – the mutually beneficial ASEAN-Korea partnership is also expected to grow stronger.
ENHANCED PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGE AND MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING
People-to-people exchanges have been vigorous between ASEAN and Korea. In 2014, 4.95 million Korean people visited the ASEAN region, making it the most popular travel destination for Koreans. Meanwhile, Korea received nearly 1.8 million visitors from ASEAN countries during the same period, which is the third largest number of foreign visitors to Korea 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. In addition, the 370 thousand ASEAN people residing in Korea and the 300 thousand Korean people in ASEAN are acting as a bridge between the regions to connect the two peoples.
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-led RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and is maintaining close cooperation with ASEAN to realize the ‘East Asia Economic Community by 2020’ – an initiative put forward by the Korea-led East Asia Vision Group (EAVG II).