South Korea will work to greatly expand its economic ties with Southeast Asian countries and enhance their joint efforts to ensure prosperity and peace in their shared region, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday.
The pledge came in a meeting with 500 business leaders from 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Moon arrived in Manila on Monday for the ASEAN-South Korea summit, slated for later in the day. He is also set to attend the ASEAN Plus Three summit, which will involve the leaders of Japan and China.
"I and my government seek to become even closer friends with ASEAN. We will raise our relations (with ASEAN countries) to the level of our ties with the four major countries around the Korean Peninsula," Moon told the business forum, known as the ASEAN Business Investment Summit. The four major countries he referred to are the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
To this end, the South Korean leader said he will send special envoys to key members of ASEAN.
"Before anything else, I myself will visit all 10 ASEAN countries during my presidency to share our deep friendship," he said.
The South Korean president proposed building a joint community of people that will ensure co-prosperity and peace.
A people-centered community will focus on exchanges of people, in addition to the governments that have long defined the Korea-ASEAN relations, Moon said.
"We must first be friends before we can share a future. To this end, we will increase exchanges between people of all levels, including businesspeople and students, in addition to exchanges between heads of state and governments," he told the meeting.
Seoul will consider simplifying its visa issuance process for tourists and visitors from ASEAN countries, he added.
The South Korean leader also vowed efforts to build a joint community for peace, calling safety and security a prerequisite to increased exchange.
"Over 500,000 ASEAN citizens live in South Korea and 6 million South Koreans visit ASEAN (countries) each year. An expansion of exchange and economic cooperation alone make the safety and peace of our countries an important issue," Moon said. "I propose developing our joint community into a community for peace that will support each other in times of crisis."
Moon also proposed building a joint community for prosperity.
"I support mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Free trade must benefit both sides. Investment must not be simply be an investment but one that increases jobs in the host country and supports the development of the related industry through technology sharing," he said.
"South Korea has learned from numerous mistakes and errors during its own development experience. That makes South Korea the best partner for ASEAN countries that are striving for development."
The South Korean president named the transportation, energy, water management and information technology industries as four sectors with the greatest potential for cooperation between the two sides.
To support increased cooperation between South Korea and ASEAN countries, Seoul will double its support fund to US$14 million per year by 2019, President Moon said.