A case of I ‘heart’ Asean

Af­ter un­leash­ing its mighty Korean wave onto the global stage, South Korea is now fo­cussed on ce­ment­ing its ties with Asean coun­tries un­der the New South­ern Pol­icy.

The Star Malaysia - - Focus - By FOO YEE PING sun­[email protected]­tar.com.my

PER­HAPS it doesn’t have the same trac­tion as “I Love New York” but the sign “I SEOUL YOU” is seen al­most ev­ery­where in the South Korean cap­i­tal.

The slo­gan was picked three years ago by Seoul city of­fi­cials to brand the city as a place that co-ex­ists with the rest of the world; or as a “cen­tre of re­la­tion­ships”. But with or with­out such a slo­gan, peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes are al­ready thriv­ing to­day, as shown in var­i­ous of­fi­cial statis­tics.

The num­ber of Asean cit­i­zens liv­ing in South Korea has gone up from 319,198 in 2013 to 518,309 last year. While the num­ber of Korean stu­dents in Malaysia has not changed much in the past two years (hov­er­ing around 1,200), the rate of Korean tourists to Malaysia has grown about 52% within five years.

Ac­cord­ing to the Korea Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion, 417,749 Kore­ans vis­ited Malaysia this year, com­pared to 274,622 back in 2013. Over­all, Asean is the most favoured hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for Kore­ans. An es­ti­mated 7.6 mil­lion Kore­ans travelled to the Asean re­gion last year.

The ties be­tween Asean and Korea had been pro­gress­ing smoothly, said Asean-Korea Cen­tre (AKC) sec­re­tary-gen­eral Lee Hyuk.

“There is no ma­jor stum­bling block in ad­vanc­ing the re­la­tion­ship,” he told a group of jour­nal­ists from Asean coun­tries who vis­ited Seoul last week. Most of the jour­nal­ists are from the Asia News Net­work of which The Star is a mem­ber.

AKC, which was set up in 2009 to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the Asean-Korea Di­alogue Re­la­tions, is tasked with the job of pro­mot­ing eco­nomic and so­cio-cul­tural cop­er­a­tion be­tween Korea and Asean mem­bers. The AKC’s cal­en­dar will be even more packed next year when South Korea play host to the Asean-Korea Sum­mit.

Among oth­ers, there will be an “Asean Train” in which rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each Asean coun­try would be in­vited for a na­tional tour of South Korea to meet with lo­cals and Asean na­tion­als at ev­ery stop. There will

also be an Asean Week which fea­tures per­for­mances and food to ex­pose the Korean pub­lic to Asean cul­tures.

Ac­cord­ing to Lee, the Korean gov­ern­ment had stepped up its ef­forts to in­vig­o­rate peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­change be­tween Asean and Korea.

“As part of this ef­fort, the Asean Cul­ture House opened in Bu­san last year, hav­ing served as a plat­form to show­case the di­verse Asean cul­tures to the pub­lic in Korea.”

Such ef­forts fit into South Korea’s New South­ern Pol­icy which was un­veiled by its pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in in Novem­ber last year. The pol­icy, with its three pil­lars em­pha­sis­ing on peo­ple, pros­per­ity and peace, is tar­get­ted at en­hanc­ing ties with South-East Asia and less­en­ing its de­pen­dence on tra­di­tional trad­ing part­ners such as the United States.

Kim Hyun-chul, who is the ad­vi­sor to the pres­i­dent on eco­nomic af­fairs, em­pha­sised on the “peo­ple” part of the 3Ps at a sep­a­rate

spe­cial brief­ing for the Asean jour­nal­ists.

“That’s what I have to say I am most proud of,” he said, adding that Korean peo­ple are warm hearted. “We want to make real re­la­tion­ships with Asean.”

Kim is also head­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Com­mit­tee on New South­ern Pol­icy.

The com­mit­tee, which was set up in Au­gust, com­prises of­fi­cials from 14 min­istries and ex­perts from the pri­vate sec­tor. It will han­dle projects linked to the New South­ern Pol­icy.

When asked about Korea’s sen­ti­ments to­wards the new gov­ern­ment of Malaysia, Kim promptly noted that “Malaysia is one of the coun­tries that our pres­i­dent wants to

visit the most.”

And as AKC’s Lee pointed out ear­lier, Tun Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad’s re­vis­it­ing of the Look East Pol­icy would be an ad­van­tage.

“The New South­ern Pol­icy may go hand in hand with the Look East Pol­icy as it shares its com­mon in­ter­ests and un­der­stand­ing of re­in­forc­ing co­op­er­a­tion with the coun­tries in the east Asia re­gion.”

“It is high time for the two coun­tries to build a stronger re­la­tion­ship,” he said.

He said the hal­lyu (Korean wave) is al­ready deep rooted among Asean mem­ber states.

“We hope the Asean wave will also flow to the Korean shores.”

— SEOUL METROPOLI­TAN GOV­ERN­MENT

Heart and soul: “I SEOUL YOU” is a slo­gan to project the South Korean cap­i­tal as a re­la­tion­shipori­ented brand.

Kim: Malaysia is among the top on Pres­i­dent Moon’s must-visit list.

Lee: The Asean-Korea ties have been pro­gress­ing smoothly.

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