The Korea Post Chief Editor Kim Hyung-dae interviewed Woo Kyung-ha, International Relations Ambassador of Busan Metropolitan City in relation to the city’s hosting the Korea-ASEAN Special Summit in November and other issues. A summary of the interview follows:
Question: What are your main duties as International Relations Ambassador of Busan Metropolitan City?
Answer: The International Relations Ambassador is dispatched from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist the mayor and provincial governor. We support Busan citizens in various global activities, such as international cooperation and overseas exchange programs and investment inducement, economy, trade culture, sports, and other international events. I assist the Mayor of Busan. I also assist and advise each department of City Hall in an effort to implement international programs efficiently. Capitalizing on our long experience in the diplomatic field, we are making vigorous efforts in various areas, including the hosting of the Korea- ASEAN Special Summit late this year, and the hosting of the 2030 World Expo in order to promote Busan’s city diplomacy.
Q: The Korea-Asean Special Summit is set to take place in Busan in November this year. What is the significance of the summit?
A: We are pleased that Busan will host the 2019 Korea-ASEAN Special Summit. Backed by the enthusiastic support of Busan citizens, I believe the summit will achieve a great success as it is the outcome of the mayor's wise vision, leadership and hard work of officials. The summit signifies Moon Jae-in government’s top-level international diplomacy and the South Korean government's “New Southern Policy.” The ASEAN Dialogue partners are 10 countries including the United States, Japan, China, and among them, Korea is the first country to hold a third special summit with ASEAN. In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Korea-ASEAN Dialogue forum, it will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss about the achievements of Korea-ASEAN cooperative relationships over the past 30 years and to lay out a vision for future mutual progress.
Q: Do you think the South Korea-ASEAN Summit will help enhance Busan's international status?
A: From the point of view of urban diplomacy, Busan’s hosting the event bears much significance. Currently, Busan City is conducting urban diplomacy in a way that will be beneficial to the dynamic city. It is an expression of the mayor’s strong will to use this summit as another driving force for the development of Busan, and to lay out his vision for the growing future generations. We hope that Busan will be globally recognized as a result of the summit event, while also helping revitalize the economic activities of all Busan citizens.
Q: Do you think that the preparations for the Korea-ASEAN Special Summit are right on track?
A: Since the Korea-ASEAN Special Summit is a national event, the Foreign Ministry's planning team is working for the special event, and as the host city of Busan, we are working closely with the central government on agenda and other issues. Busan City operates four Korea-ASEAN Special Summit Support Teams. Inter-agency teams also are formed to actively deal with issues related to security, safety, firefighting, customs and tourism. Major facilities, such as BEXCO and Nurimaru APEC House Conference Room will be repaired efficiently and the city’s streets and other environments will be beatified as well.
Q: Could you measure the economic effects of the Korea-ASEAN Special Summit?
A: Various tangible and intangible effects tend to occur when international conferences are held. That's why many countries compete to host mega events such as the Olympics, the World Cup finals and the Expo. The hosting of international conferences will definitely revitalize various economic sectors, especially in the tourism sector.
Of note, international conferences have positive economic effects on a range of service industries, which include sightseeing, accommodation, exhibitions, food, shopping and transportation. It will be good for the local economy of Busan. According to statistics, the average consumer spending of MICE (Meeting, Incentive Tour, Convention and Exhibition) tourists is 1.8 times higher than ordinary tourists.
Q: Could you explain about ACH activities?
A: The ASEAN CULTURE HOUSE (ACH), built in Busan as an outcome of the 2014 Korea-ASEAN Special Summit, plays an important role in cultural exchanges with ASEAN countries. Now, it is necessary to take a step further and broaden the scope of cooperation to include exchanges between South Korean and ASEAN companies and between industries. It is important for the summit to have a lasting effect on the Busan economy even after the event is over. As a practical benefit for the summit, we are seeking to create tentatively named "Korea-ASEAN ICT Convergence Village" to focus on the area of contents such as movies, games and others. We are also seeking to develop the area around the ASEAN Cultural Center into an “ASEAN Culture and Economic Cooperation Complex" cluster.
Q: Following the Korea-ASEAN Summit, it is understood that the inaugural “Korean-Mekong Summit” will also take place. Would you like to explain about it?
A: The Korea-Mekong Summit will be held in Busan for the first time on November 27, a day after the Korea-ASEAN Special Summit. It was launched as a ministerial-level meeting in 2011 and is set to expand into the Korea-Mekong Summit timed with the 2019 Korea-ASEAN Special Summit As a separate summit with five countries in the Mekong River basin in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, which have great growth potential, it will bring an important turning point in cooperation between South Korea and the Mekong region. The Korea-Mekong Summit is part of Korea’s New Southern Policy which aims at strengthening cooperation with rapidly growing Mekong countries and supporting efforts to narrow the development gap in the ASEAN region.
Q: What is the strength of Busan as a global city?
A: The level of internationalization in Busan is considered very high. That's what foreign authoritative organizations say. The Union of International Associations (UIA) ranked Busan seventh in the world and fourth in Asia in the international conference city category in 2017. The New York Times selected Busan as Asia's best travel destination in 2018.