ASEAN - key partner in RoK's Indo-Pacific Strategy

The relationship between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea (RoK) began in 1989 and rapidly evolved into the comprehensive partnership in 2004, and the strategic partnership in 2010. The two sides have agreed to elevate their partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership in the coming year.
ASEAN - key partner in South Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy
Secretary-General of ASEAN and leaders attend the 24th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 6, 2023. (Photo: Anh Son)

The Repulic of Korea (RoK) and ASEAN have collaborated through various regional mechanisms such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, RCEP, EAS, ADMM+, ARF, and IPEF. Currently, ASEAN is the RoK's second-largest trading partner, second-largest destination for FDI, and the largest recipient of ODA from the EastAsian country. ASEAN is recognized for its significant development potential, remaining a focal point in the RoK's policy.

On November 11, 2022, at the 23rd ASEAN-South Korea Summit, President Yoon Suk Yeol announced the "Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative (KASI)," highlighting the new government's efforts to enhance relations with ASEAN. This initiative aims to go beyond economic priorities and establish a more strategic and comprehensive relationship with ASEAN, focusing on all three pillars: Political-Security Community, Economic Community, and Socio-Cultural Community.

To achieve this goal, the RoK commits to double its annual contribution to the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund. KASI also proposes more frequent strategic dialogues between high-level officials of both sides to discuss regional peace and security issues and the organization of the ASEAN-RoK Defense Ministers' Meeting. Aligned with ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), both KASI and the RoK's Indo-Pacific Strategy aim for a free, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

The significance of ASEAN in the RoK's Indo-Pacific Strategy has been emphasized. The strategy reaffirms ASEAN as a "key partner" for Seoul in addressing regional issues, preventing conflicts, preserving peace, and achieving comprehensive, sustainable, and balanced economic development goals.

The RoK's cooperation with ASEAN will follow eight "core effort directions" proposed in KASI, including upgrading the ASEAN-RoK strategic partnership, strengthening bilateral relations with ASEAN member states, enhancing cooperation within ASEAN-led mechanisms, expanding comprehensive security cooperation, promoting strategic coordination, expanding cooperation in future and emerging areas for shared prosperity and development, addressing regional and global challenges, fostering exchanges for future generations as a motivation for future prosperity, and enhancing resources for ASEAN-RoK cooperation, including increasing relevant cooperation funds and ODA for the region.

ASEAN - key partner in South Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Embassy of the RoK organised the ASEAN-RoK Strategic Forum themed “Towards an ASEAN-RoK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Peace, Security and Prosperity” in Hanoi on November 1, 2023. (Photo: Anh Son)

Vietnam-RoK relations, established in December 1992, have developed rapidly, reaching the level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in December 2022 (after 30 years since the establishment). This designation, the highest level of relationship that Vietnam identifies, has only been established with China (2008), Russia (2012), India (2016), and most recently the United States (September 2023).

The RoK's position as Vietnam's fourth Comprehensive Strategic Partner underscores Vietnam's significant regard for this partnership. The RoK has also affirmed Vietnam as the focus of its previous New Southern Policy (NSP) and its current Indo-Pacific Strategy. Former President Moon Jae In stated, "the RoK's relationship with ASEAN is indispensable for our prosperity and peace, and Vietnam is at the center of that relationship." President Yoon Suk Yeol further emphasized, "Vietnam is a core partner in the RoK's Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative."

The importance of Vietnam-RoK relations is evident, particularly in the economic field. Currently, the RoK is the largest direct investor in Vietnam, ranks second in development assistance (after Japan), and third in trade (after China and the United States). Leading Korean chaebols such as Samsung, LG, SK, Lotte, and Hyundai have been operating and expanding their activities in the Vietnamese market. Vietnam has become the top choice for many Korean companies seeking to penetrate the region. During President Yoon Suk Yeol's visit to Vietnam in June 2023, a delegation of over 200 Korean businesses accompanied him to explore business opportunities in Vietnam.

The RoK's Indo-Pacific Strategy places ASEAN and Vietnam at its core, presenting opportunities for further deepening bilateral relations. Built on mutual trust and shared interests, the success of this relationship will contribute positively to the development of both nations.

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