30 years on: relationship between Việt Nam and RoK at its best ever

October 18, 2022 - 07:28
Kimchi has become a popular part of Vietnamese home-cooked meals, and Korean people are no strangers to Vietnamese spring rolls. Just as Korean bulgogi restaurants have become popular in Việt Nam’s cities, Phở restaurants can be easily spotted in the Republic of Korea.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính with South Korean Foreign Minister Eui Yong in June, 2021 in Hà Nội. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Kimchi has become a popular part of Vietnamese home-cooked meals, and Korean people are no strangers to Vietnamese spring rolls. Just as Korean bulgogi restaurants have become popular in Việt Nam’s cities, Phở restaurants can be easily spotted in the Republic of Korea.

But relations between Việt Nam and the RoK thirty years after the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties in 1992 is about so much more than enjoying each other's iconic dishes. The two countries, in fact, have taken great strides in all spheres, especially in economic, social, and cultural aspects.

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn, during his visit to RoK earlier this year, said “the relationship between Việt Nam and the Republic of Korea (ROK) is currently at its best."

The relationship has actually gone a long way. Back in December 1992, after signing an agreement on the exchange of the liaison offices between the two countries, the two countries signed a joint statement on the establishment of ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations and the RoK opened its embassy in Hà Nội. In March 1993, Việt Nam opened its embassy in Seoul.

In November 1993, the RoK opened its General Consulate in HCM City. In August 2002, the two countries issued a joint statement on the “comprehensive partnership in the 21st century” on the occasion of Vietnamese President Trần Đức Lương’s visit to the RoK.

In October 2009, the bilateral relationship was elevated to a “strategic cooperative partnership” on the occasion of RoK President Lee Myeong Bak’s visit to Việt Nam.

Amid the pandemic, the two countries' relations have been strongly promoted through exchanges of delegations and bilateral contacts in appropriate forms. The regular maintenance of meetings at all levels contributes to enhancing mutual understanding and political trust between the two countries, creating a solid premise for cooperation between the two sides.

Noteworthy are the Việt Nam visit by Speaker of the RoK National Assembly Park Byeong Seuk (October 31 – November 4, 2020) and the RoK visit by Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Vương Đình Huệ (December 2021). RoK Foreign Ministers Kang Kyung-wha and Chung Eui-yong also visited Việt Nam during the complicated developments of COVID-19.

Party General Secretary Đỗ Mười had a meeting with President of the Republic of Korea Kim Young-sam in Seoul in April 1995. VNA/VNS Photo

Earlier this year, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn paid an official visit to South Korea on February 9-11, marking the first important step in a series of events as both nations celebrate their 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and especially when they will seek to officially elevate their existing strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

In March, State President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol had phone talks, in which both leaders agreed to maintain high-ranking exchanges to better adapt to the new situation; support greater cooperation in security, defence, and industrial defence; taking steps to upgrade the relations to “comprehensive strategic partnership” and achieve bilateral trade turnover of US$100 billion by 2023, eventually hitting $150 billion by 2030; effectively implementing Việt Nam-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA) and RCEP; and assisting Việt Nam’s coordinating role in the ASEAN-South Korea cooperation for the 2021-2024 term.

After 30 years, the RoK has become one of the partners of leading importance for Việt Nam, ranking first in investment, second in ODA, and third in trade.

The two sides’ bilateral trade turnover in 2021 amounted to $78 billion, a 150-fold increase since 1992 when diplomatic relations were established. The RoK has remained the top foreign investor in Việt Nam for many years, with total accumulated investment capital of around $80 billion and over 9,300 active projects. Registered capital increased by over 700 times since 1992. The focus of the RoK’s FDI into Việt Nam has shifted over time, moving from manufacturing industries in the 1990s to real estate in the early 2000s, and to the production of advanced technological equipment at present.

The friendship between the two peoples is deepened through increasingly vibrant exchanges. There are about 200,000 nationals of either country living, working, and studying in the other country. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were 5 million arrivals between our countries in 2019 and thousands of direct flights every month.

In the fight against the pandemic, the two countries have been providing each other with effective support to jointly weather the difficulties and successfully realise the dual goal of containing the pandemic and developing the economy.

“We have effectively maintained regular exchanges either via telephone conversations, virtual meetings as well as face-to-face contacts between our senior leaders, ministries, agencies and localities. This serves to keep track of our bilateral cooperation progress and better understand each other’s needs,” Foreign Minister Sơn said.

Since the early days of the outbreak, the Government of the RoK has provided Việt Nam with a multitude of medical equipment and vaccines, and facilitated Vietnamese citizens’ vaccination in the RoK. The RoK citizens and businesses in Việt Nam also actively participated in and supported the Vietnamese Government and local authorities in responding to the pandemic.

When Việt Nam had difficulty accessing vaccine supplies in 2021, the RoK was among the first countries to offer Việt Nam vaccine donations through the bilateral channel. At the same time, Việt Nam also facilitated the entry of tens of thousands of RoK nationals to continue their economic activities in Việt Nam.

"Both countries have a saying that can amount to “a friend in need is a friend in deed”. I want to reaffirm that we are true friends, particularly looking at what we have done for each other during the COVID-19 pandemic," Sơn said.

Labour cooperation is also a bright spot in bilateral relations. The RoK is the second largest market for Vietnamese workers, while Việt Nam is also the second largest source of foreign workers in the RoK. There are currently 48,000 Vietnamese workers in the RoK.

Cooperation in other areas, such as cooperation between localities, people-to-people exchanges, culture and education are also promoted, helping to strengthen mutual trust and understanding between the two countries’ people. Currently, 76 Vietnamese provinces, cities and localities have signed cooperation agreements with Korean localities and organisations. Vietnamese communities in the RoK and the RoK communities in Việt Nam have made active contributions to each country’s socio-economic development.

Apart from bilateral issues, both sides also enjoy active coordination and mutual support in regional and internatsations and multilateral forums, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and regional cooperation mechanisms, such as ASEAN-RoK, ASEAN+3, Mekong-RoK, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

“Thirty years ago, in the spirit of setting aside the past and looking towards the future, Việt Nam and the RoK shook hands and established formal diplomatic relations, opening up a new chapter in their history. That choice has been proven correct by the fruits of cooperation and development that our two countries enjoy today. Nowadays, our two countries are not merely each other’s friends but strategic partners,” said Foreign Minister Sơn. VNS