South Korea’s Moon Jae In un­veils new fo­cus on South­east Asia

Business World - - THEWORLD -

JAKARTA — South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae- in on Thurs­day un­veiled a new pol­icy aimed at deep­en­ing ties with South­east Asia, as the North Asian eco­nomic pow­er­house seeks to curb its re­liance on tra­di­tional trad­ing part­ners like China and the United States.

Mr. Moon made In­done­sia, South­east Asia’s big­gest econ­omy, his first state visit to the re­gion and was ac­com­pa­nied by a del­e­ga­tion of around 200 busi­ness lead­ers.

The “New South­ern Pol­icy,” aims to better con­nect South Korea to As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) and ex­pand the eco­nomic in­flu­ence of Asia’s fourth-largest econ­omy in the re­gion home to over half a bil­lion peo­ple.

“Korean diplo­macy in Asia has been more to­wards Ja­pan, China and Rus­sia. But I see that it should ex­pand to new hori­zons and In­done­sia has good prospects,” Mr. Moon said in open­ing re­marks at a busi­ness fo­rum.

South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial Blue House has said the pol­icy will mir­ror Mr. Moon’s “New North­ern Pol­icy” aimed at ex­pand­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China, Ja­pan, Rus­sia and Mon­go­lia. Mr. Moon an­nounced that in Septem­ber while at the East Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Rus­sia.

In­done­sia and South Korea signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing ( MoU) to de­velop a light rail tran­sit ( LRT) sys­tem, In­done­sia’s in­dus­try min­is­ter Air­langga Har­tarto said.

South Korea’s Yon­hap news agency said the project in Jakarta was part of a se­ries of MoUs worth up to $1.9 bil­lion due to be signed.

A re­cent year- long diplo­matic stand­off be­tween Seoul and Bei­jing over the de­ploy­ment of a US anti- mis­sile sys­tem has ex­posed the de­pen­dence of Korean com­pa­nies on Chi­nese cus­tomers and likely ex­ac­er­bated Seoul’s ur­gency to di­ver­sify ties.

Dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump this week, Mr. Moon said he was aim­ing for a more “bal­anced diplo­macy,” which would in­clude Rus­sia, ASEAN coun­tries, and mem­bers of the Eu­ro­pean Union.

Mr. Moon is due to meet In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo at a state palace in Bo­gor, south of Jakarta, later on Thurs­day for talks and then a state din­ner.

The two are due to dis­cuss in­fras­truc­ture, trade, and also ten­sions on the Korean penin­sula.

In­done­sia has tra­di­tion­ally had good re­la­tions with North Korea and main­tains diplo­matic ties and is one of a small num­ber of coun­tries with an em­bassy in Py­ongyang.

A num­ber of South Korean com­pa­nies al­ready have or are plan­ning big in­vest­ments in In­done­sia. Steel gi­ant POSCO has a multi­bil­lion- dol­lar joint ven­ture with In­done­sia’s Krakatau Steel, Hyundai Mo­tor is set­ting up a car fac­tory and Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co as­sem­bles smart­phones in the coun­try.

In­done­sia is also emerg­ing as an im­por­tant mar­ket for South Korean de­fense equip­ment and the coun­tries are co­op­er­at­ing on a ven­ture to jointly build a fighter plane, dubbed KF-X.

In­done­sia’s trade with South Korea was worth about $ 10 bil­lion in the first nine months of 2017, while Korean for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment rose about a quar­ter to $ 1.37 bil­lion over the pe­riod. South Kore­ans make up one of the largest ex­pa­tri­ate groups in In­done­sia and parts of Jakarta have nu­mer­ous Korean restau­rants and bars. As well as cor­po­rate mus­cle, Korea’s soft power has also grown in In­done­sia along­side other coun­tries in South­east Asia. Korean K- Pop is hugely pop­u­lar among In­done­sians, with long- es­tab­lished fan clubs and bands, like BTS, tour­ing the South­east Asian coun­try. In­done­sian Twit­ter ac­counts ded­i­cated to Korean pop idols have around a mil­lion fol­low­ers.

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