On the threshold of the official visit to the Republic of Korea (RoK) by Việt Nam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Vietnam News Agency’s correspondent in Seoul Mạnh Hùng spoke to Chol Young Joo, Chairman of the Korea-Vietnam Friendship Association (KOVIFA), and Lee Jae Hyon, Senior Fellow, Ph D. Director of the Centre for ASEAN and Oceania Studies, the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, about relations between the two countries.
Việt Nam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc will visit the RoK at the end of this month. What’s the significance of the event in promoting the two countries’ friendship, especially with Việt Nam and the RoK celebrating the 10th anniversary of upgrading bilateral ties to the Strategic Cooperation Partnership level?
First of all, we welcome Việt Nam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on November 25-26 for the ASEAN-Korea Special Summit.
The ASEAN-Korea summit, held in Busan on November 25-26, recognises ASEAN as one of South Korea’s important partner partners in the New Southern Policy. ‘People, Peace and Prosperity’ are the agenda of this ASEAN-Korea Special Summit and it aims to maintain and develop peace and prosperity in Asia by expanding mutual exchanges.
The RoK and Việt Nam entered into a ‘Strategic Cooperation Partnership’ (concluded in 2009) after diplomatic relations in 1992, and the relations of the two countries continue to develop.
In March 2018, President Moon Jae-in held a summit with four Vietnamese top leaders, and proposed to upgrade to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ to further strengthen and deepen the bilateral relationship. We expect South Korea and Việt Nam to develop from a ‘Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.
I expect that both South Korea and Việt Nam will lead people, peace and development in all fields including political diplomacy, economy and culture.
What do you think about the role of people-to-people and cultural exchanges in the consolidation of relations between the RoK and Việt Nam?
So far, exchanges and co-operation between South Korea and Việt Nam have been centred on the relationship between government and government, enterprise and enterprise.
Now, to develop into a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, we can develop the culture and history of our two countries by developing into a relationship between people and people.
Between the two countries, I believe the expansion of people-to-people relations and cultural exchanges will play a stronger and stronger role in bilateral relations.
The exchange between South Korea and Việt Nam now includes ‘family to family ‘,’ village to village ‘,’ alley to alley; ‘,’ school to school’, ‘child to child ’, ‘youth to youth’ and ’senior to senior’.
I think the travel and tourism methods of the people of both countries will help us to understand the home, culture and history of both countries through ‘home stay’.
What do you think about current Việt Nam and South Korea relations and how do you see bilateral relations developing in terms of politics, economy and culture?
Our relations with Việt Nam are kind of high among ASEAN countries. If you look at some indicators like economic and social-culture relations, bilateral relations between South Korea and Việt Nam are deep and wide. For example, South Korea-Việt Nam bilateral trade accounts for 50 per cent of total trade value with ASEAN countries, or in other words half of our country’s trade is with Việt Nam and also our investors left in Việt Nam’s economy.
As for socio-cultural relations between South Korea and Việt Nam, South Korean’s number one destination among ASEAN countries is Việt Nam and we have also co-operated in many areas of defence and security issues and I expect Việt Nam and our country’s bilateral relations will go further and deepen in the coming years.
With the already laid social, cultural and economic relations, as well as the basis of bilateral co-operation, relations will grow. In some areas like socio-cultural cooperation, I have to mention some elements: there are a quite number of Vietnamese students in South Korea and their performance is good. They will graduate, leave South Korea, return to Việt Nam and become bridges between the two countries.
In the future, I believe we have to develop and deepen our co-operation as Việt Nam and South Korea are both facing the dilemma between the US and China. Both the governments have to think about how to reduce the negative impacts from their trade war, that’s the way Việt Nam-South Korea strategic co-operation will go in the coming years.
What do you think about the role of Việt Nam and the role of Việt Nam-South Korea in the development of ASEAN-South Korea ties and Mekong region-South Korea relations?
Việt Nam has led the development of South Korea-ASEAN relations given our economic and socio-cultural relations. Việt Nam is one of the most important countries in ASEAN so in the development of South Korea-ASEAN relations, Việt Nam plays a vital role and in the coming years, Việt Nam’s role is more important in deepening our relations with ASEAN countries.
South Korea is determined to upgrade our efforts in the Mekong area in the development and growth of Mekong countries and Việt Nam is one of the major players in the Mekong area so for South Korea’s successful co-operation with Mekong countries, Việt Nam should share its experiences in Mekong area and Việt Nam can guide South Korea to be successful player in the Mekong region.
In your opinion, what is the position and role of Việt Nam in South Korea’s New Southern Policy?
From 2020, South Korea will start the second phase of the New Southern Policy and next year, Việt Nam is the chair country of ASEAN and Việt Nam was elected to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the term 2020-21, so there are a lot of things Việt Nam and South Korea can do together regionally and globally.
For the success of the New Southern Policy, Việt Nam’s contribution is vital. The other important aspect of Việt Nam’s role in the success of South Korea’s New Southern Policy is Việt Nam’s contributions to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
Việt Nam has close relations with North Korea and Việt Nam is one of the best countries that can give North Korea fundamental advice on opening up, reform and denuclearisation so in that sense Việt Nam plays a vital role not only for the success of the New Southern Policy but also for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
As I have mentioned earlier, most ASEAN countries, especially Việt Nam, and South Korea are facing the pressure and uncertainties from the fierce competition between China and the US. As the chair of ASEAN, I hope Việt Nam will lead ASEAN countries in developing strategic relations with South Korea in the frame of the New Southern Policy. There are a lot of things we can discuss, such as how to reduce the negative impact of the trade war and how to reduce the impact of the strategic competition between the US and China. — VNS
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