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Elevate South Korea-Malaysia ties to strategic level with ‘Look East Policy’ anniversary – Ambassador

Elevate South Korea-Malaysia ties to strategic level with ‘Look East Policy’ anniversary – Ambassador

21 Dec 2022

Given the ongoing global challenges and the importance of Asian regionalism in the 21st century today, South Korea foresees the Look East Policy (LEP) framework it established with Malaysia in 1983 could be further upgraded.

Entering its 40th anniversary next year, the policy which first made waves with Japan in 1982, South Korea is optimistic the policy it shared with Malaysia could boost more robust growth at this particular juncture.

Despite all the achievements and fruitful results since its launch, South Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Yeo Seung Bae told Bernama in an exclusive interview recently that people-to-people exchanges and industrial cooperation had continued to expand, growing at a level that could not have been imagined when the policy was initiated 40 years ago.

The ambassador said with more South Korean companies ramping up investments in Malaysia, both in terms of quantity and quality, over the past two years, next year’s 40th commemoration of the LEP is envisaging an elevation of bilateral ties.

“South Korea is a country that achieved industrialisation from the ashes of war, transforming from an aid recipient into a donor. There are great hopes it will play an even greater role, fulfilling the expectations and playing an even fuller role at the global level.

“Given that Malaysia has been working together with South Korea through the LEP, all the while sharing experiences and promoting mutual development, there is huge potential for cooperation between the two sides.

“With that in mind, I hope that next year we can look back on the achievements we have made under the LEP, find areas for cooperation for the next 40 years, and ‘leap’ together going forward, making 2023 a Year of a ‘Look East Again Policy’,” he said.

Yeo said that both nations are continuing discussions to elevate ties to the strategic partnership level, covering political, economic and cultural fields, as well as defence and the defence industry sectors.

“Establishing a strategic partnership is something that goes beyond mere declaration. It is about strengthening shared efforts, focusing on generating new momentum to take bilateral ties to a higher level.

“Hopefully, we can announce it at a suitable time next year, perhaps during high-level visits or through some other avenues. I am confident that 2023 will open a new chapter for South Korea-Malaysia relations,” he added.

Bilateral trade between Malaysia and South Korea surpassed US$20 billion for the first time, exceeding US$23 billion for the first 10 months of 2022, a significant increase driven by the semiconductor, electrical and electronic products industry and petrochemical products.

The republic is Malaysia’s ninth-largest trading partner.

LEP was introduced in 1982 by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was Prime Minister then, to learn about nation-building and development from South Korea and Japan.

In conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration next year, the South Korean Embassy recently launched a new logo with the flag colours of both countries to reflect the robust bilateral linkage.

Asean-South Korean Framework

In line with South Korea’s foreign policy vision of becoming a “Global Pivotal State”, the key concept of its new Indo-Pacific Strategy introduced by President Yoon Suk Yeol, Yeo said Asean is one of the most important partners to promote that strategy. President Yoon introduced the Indo-Pacific Strategy at the Asean-Republic of Korea Summit in Cambodia last month,

He said with an Asean-specific plan called the Korea-Asean Solidarity Initiative (Kasi), the direction of cooperation should further encompass security to establish regional peace and stability, trade promotion and high-technology to promote shared prosperity and growth.

“President Yoon has stressed that we live in an era of the Indo-Pacific region, a part of the world that accounts for 65 per cent of the world’s population and 60 per cent of the global gross domestic product.

“Thus, joint efforts are needed to address emerging regional and international challenges such as climate change, the environment and healthcare. All of these areas of collaboration are equally important in the bilateral relations between South Korea and Malaysia.

“It is imperative to continue to find ways to effectively align South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Kasi, and Malaysia’s Look East Policy,” he said, noting Malaysia is the republic’s third-largest trade partner in Southeast Asia.

Yeo said the South Korean government had announced the plan to double the funding for Asean Cooperation Funds, including the ROK-BIMP-EAGA Cooperation Fund.

“Since the BIMP-EAGA Facilitation Centre is located in Malaysia, I believe that there will be a greater need for cooperation with Malaysia regarding this matter as well,” he said.

BIMP-EAGA is the Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East Asean Growth Area cooperation initiative established by the four countries in 1994 to spur development.

South Korea has become one of Malaysia’s largest foreign investors over the past 40 years in terms of implemented projects, with a total investment value of more than US$10 billion last year.

Source : Bernama