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Could you share your view of the highlights in RoK - Vietnam bilateral cooperation, particularly in trade and investment, over the past 20 years?
Vietnam and Korea established official diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then, the bilateral cooperation between the two countries has constantly been strengthened and fostered in all fields encompassing political, economic, cultural relations and people-to-people exchanges.
Especially, in terms of trade and investment, our bilateral cooperation has achieved remarkable progress. The bilateral trade volume jumped from $500 million in 1992 to $18.6 billion in 2011, which is a 37-fold increase.
It is targeted to reach $20 billion by 2015, but this figure could be achieved much sooner. Korea is now Vietnam’s second-largest source of investment with the registered capital of about $24.5 billion by July 2012 and also a major partner for development cooperation in Vietnam.
How do you see the prospects in the partnership in the coming time and the focal features of the bilateral relationship?
Indeed, the bilateral relations between Korea and Vietnam have achieved different heights over the last two decades. The political relations between Korea and Vietnam are currently at its best.
High-level exchanges between leaders of the two countries are actively under way. Economic exchanges have progressed substantially and rapidly over the last two decades. Recently, Korea and Vietnam officially launched the Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Once the bilateral trade agreement is signed, I believe, it will further boost bilateral trade and strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries. The joint feasibility study predicted that an FTA would increase Korea’s GDP by 0.74 per cent and Vietnam’s by 3.22 per cent in the next few years.
In parallel with the dynamic development of bilateral ties, people-to-people exchanges have grown tremendously. In 1992, the number of visitors to each country was merely ten thousand a year. As of last year, it grew to more than six hundred thousand. Currently, about 100 flights are in operation between the two countries on a weekly basis. The sizes of the Korea and Vietnamese communities in their respective host countries are continuously on the rise. Around 135,000 Korean people find their second home in Vietnam and so do 120,000 Vietnamese people in Korea. Of greater importance to people-to-people exchanges are the growing family ties between the Korean and Vietnamese people. There are approximately 50,000 Korean and Vietnamese married couples, making our two counties virtually “in-laws.”
What is the position of Vietnam in RoK’s relationship strategy with regional countries?
Korea and Vietnam relations will continue to develop in the days, years and decades to come. Significantly, Korea and Vietnam jointly decided to lift bilateral relations to “Strategic Cooperative Partnership” in 2009. By forging this high level of partnership, the two countries are now pursuing strategic interests in bilateral relations as well as in the context of regional and global peace and prosperity.
Both countries share strategic interests in peace, stability and prosperity in the region. As members of regional arrangements including the ASEAN+3, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asia Forum, the two countries have played an instrumental role in consolidating peace and stability in the region.
I am confident that our two countries will continue to prove ideal partners for cooperation in all fields, building on the achievements. We will be able to realise enormous, untapped potentials to further expand and intensify our ties on the basis of a shared cultural and historical heritage and vision of progress.
Can you share RoK’s policy in providing ODA to Vietnam in the coming years?
Korea’s ODA is aimed at contributing to sustainable, inclusive and effective development of its partners. In 2011, Vietnam and Korea agreed upon the “Country Partnership Strategy for the period 2011-2015” focusing on three areas: improving the infrastructure, developing human resources and coping with climate change and green growth. We focus on these areas to help Vietnam achieve the goal of becoming a modern industrialised country by 2020.
Vietnam will continue to be a key partner in Korea’s ODA programme. Through the framework agreement for concessional loans with Vietnam, Korea will provide $1.2 billion during 2012-2015 in addition to the annual cooperation projects delivered by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).