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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 26)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:15 November 26, 2019

Korea-ASEAN partnership

South Korea and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched a two-day summit in Busan, Monday. The event, the third of its kind since 2009, is aimed at enhancing mutual prosperity between the two parties and promoting peace in the region. It is also in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their ties.

In a keynote speech to open the summit, President Moon Jae-in stressed the importance of economic cooperation between Korea and ASEAN. He presented three principles for collaboration: to expand people-to-people exchanges for inclusive cooperation, to promote win-win prosperity and innovative growth, and to strengthen connectivity.

The principles well reflect the slogan of the 2019 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit: "Partnership for Peace, Prosperity for People." Korea and ASEAN should strive for peace in the region and to enhance inclusive growth and prosperity for the people. To that end, both sides are required to double down on cooperation in various fields ranging from trade, investment and tourism to culture, diplomacy and security.

The summit carries significant implications especially when the world is going through rising trade protectionism and the U.S.-China trade war. It can provide new momentum for President Moon's New Southern Policy aimed at beefing up cooperation with ASEAN members and other countries in Southeast Asia. Since his inauguration in May 2017, Moon has actively initiated the policy in order to pivot away from the four major powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula: the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

The policy is a step in the right direction, considering ASEAN's high growth potential. ASEAN is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, and third-largest investment destination after the U.S. and the European Union. And Korea is the fifth-largest trading partner for ASEAN. Two-way trade volume topped $160 billion and mutual investment totaled $10 billion last year.

All this shows that ASEAN is emerging as a highly important partner for Korea not only for the economy, but also security. No one can overestimate the growth potential of ASEAN which has the world's third-largest population of 650 million and abundant natural resources. The Asian bloc also boasts a high annual growth rate of 5 percent.

That is why Korea needs to upgrade its strategic partnership with ASEAN to a new level of cooperative ties. In fact, the country's export-driven economy has suffered a setback due to its heavy reliance on China and the U.S. which are engaged in a self-destructive trade war. The ongoing trade dispute with Japan over historical issues is also posing a threat to Korea's economic growth.

Against this backdrop, the Moon administration is going all-out to diversify the country's export markets. Strengthening cooperation with ASEAN is more than necessary for Korea to overcome its economic dilemma and open a new horizon in the partnership. We hope that Korea and ASEAN will successfully conclude their commemorative summit and work out ways to deepen their partnership for co-prosperity and peace.

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