|Cultural exchange: A traditional dance celebrates the Double Five Festival (on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month). —Photo courtesy of the Korean Tourism Organisation
Ambassador Jun Dae-joo writes to Viet Nam News to commemorate the Republic of Korea's National Day and the 23rd anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In the span of just over 20 years, both the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Viet Nam have emerged as important partners in all aspects – political, economic, socio-cultural – of bilateral relations.
The most impressive achievements have been made in the economic realm. Today, RoK is Viet Nam's biggest investor and third largest trading partner.
As of August 2015, total investment of over US$42.9 billion has been made, and this number is expected to grow in view of the vigorous investments that are currently being made by over 4,000 Korean companies in all parts of the Vietnamese economy from infrastructure and manufacturing to services and financing.
Bilateral trade volume has also increased 60-fold in the past 23 years recording $30.3 billion in 2014. As trade between the two countries gains further momentum with the newly signed RoK -Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement, I am certain that we will easily reach the target of $70 billion in the year 2020.
RoK is also the second largest official development assistance contributor to Viet Nam. Our cumulative foreign aid for Viet Nam has reached $1.2 billion as of 2014 with many projects focusing on sharing development experience and capacity-building.
The most notable on-going project is the Saemaul Undong, or a new community movement, taking place in the provinces of Quang Tri and Lao Cai which aims to reduce poverty, increase community income, modernise farmlands and improve the overall living conditions of villages in these regions.
Rural development continues to be a priority in the post-2015 global development agenda, and the success of our partnership through Saemaul Undong has been a topic of discussion this year at the Special High-Level Event on Rural Development that took place last Saturday at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Both President Park Geun-hye and President Truong Tan Sang delivered speeches at the event sharing our experience, co-operation and vision on rural development strategies for a sustainable and inclusive growth of our communities.
The vitality of our economic partnership has provided a strong basis on which to build our political relations, and in less than 10 years into our diplomatic ties we established a "Comprehensive Partnership" which was soon upgraded to a "Strategic Co-operative Partnership" in 2009.
Since then we have seen unprecedented frequency of high-level exchanges – all four top leaders of Viet Nam have visited Korea from 2011 to 2014, and following President Park's state visit to Viet Nam in 2013, the Speaker of the Korean National Assembly led a parliamentary delegation to Ha Noi early this year.
In fact, every year, members of our respective cabinets and the national assembly visit each other to seek ways to further expand and broaden our strategic partnership.
Last month, both our foreign and defence ministries held strategic dialogues covering a wide range of issues of bilateral, regional and global concern.
Such continued contact and exchange of views will naturally lead to increased trust between our countries allowing greater space for co-operation.
These exchanges have not been limited to the government. With deepening bilateral ties, people-to-people contact has also greatly increased.
Last year approximately a million Korean and Vietnamese visited each other. The number is growing rapidly, especially as tourism-related infrastructure in Viet Nam continues to improve. More than 30 municipalities from each country are bound with sisterhood, and over 130,000 Vietnamese are living in RoK while 140,000 Koreans are living in Viet Nam.
Our peoples are becoming closer and closer, and relations between RoK and Viet Nam have often been dubbed as those between "in-law", apparently referring to the growing number of intermarriages between Koreans and Vietnamese.
Indeed, these multicultural families have become an invaluable bridge of our two peoples, enriching our cultures and bringing us closer together to better appreciate our histories, music, food and traditions.
Now as we chart our future forward, there is a need to expand the scope and content of our collaboration beyond the bilateral relations. As middle powers of the region, both RoK and Viet Nam need to further strengthen co-operation to ensure peace and stability in the region as well as deal with non-traditional global challenges such as transnational terrorism and climate change.
It was in this context that the Korean Government initiated a dialogue to discuss security issues within the ASEAN-Korea Dialogue framework. And as part of these efforts, last year RoK and Viet Nam together hosted a regional ASEAN-Korea conference on UN Peacekeeping Operations to share expertise and experience on establishing national legal frameworks for UN PKO participation.
Viet Nam has also been a strong supporter of President Park's initiatives to enhance trust and build a habit of co-operation both on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
We hope to continue this close partnership, both within the UN and the ASEAN-led frameworks, to ensure a peaceful and prosperous East Asia.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of independence of both Viet Nam and RoK. As Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, I had both the honour and pleasure to attend several commemorative events celebrating the 70 years of history of the Vietnamese Government, including the highlight ceremony and parade on September 2 at the Ba Dinh Square.
At all of these events, I was once again reminded of the similar histories of our two countries, especially the determination of our ancestors to defend the freedom of our peoples. I believe this shared experience is what makes our relationship special and our co-operation natural.
Indeed, our combined efforts in all aspects of our bilateral relations will allow us to reach the full potential of our friendship as a partnership of shared peace, prosperity and happiness. — VNS