|Republic of Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin. VNA/VNS Photo
Last October, you had an official visit to Việt Nam, could you tell us your impressions about the trip?
It was my first visit to Việt Nam as Foreign Minister. However, I had visited Việt Nam quite often before so I felt really familiar. Since the first time I came to Việt Nam in 1996 as a member of the entourage when the first President of RoK, Kim Young-sam, paid an official visit to Việt Nam, this was the ninth time.
During this visit, I saw a lot of high-rise buildings and a vibrant atmosphere in the heart of Hà Nội, confirming the potential for stable development of Việt Nan despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recent visit to Hà Nội also showed the bright future of bilateral cooperation. In meetings with President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn, we had very meaningful discussions about the forms of cooperation that we have achieved. The two countries can push to become closer strategic partners in the future. And especially, I feel that the Vietnamese people love and respect national football coach Park Hang-seo very much. Therefore, I think it's time for RoK and Việt Nam to get closer together and build a stronger partnership and mutually beneficial partnership in the future.
Could you please evaluate the development of Việt Nam - RoK relations over the past 30 years, especially after the two countries upgraded their bilateral relations to a Strategic Cooperation Partnership in October 2009?
The foundation of the development of cooperative relations between RoK and Việt Nam is a complementary economic structure and many similarities in history and culture due to the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism. It is a very good relationship, in which the closer the two countries become, the more beneficial it is for each other. Currently, Việt Nam is RoK's fourth largest trading partner and RoK is Việt Nam's third largest trading partner. By the end of 2021, trade turnover between the two countries has exceeded US$80 billion and compared to the time of establishing diplomatic relations, trade turnover has increased by about 160 times over the past 30 years. I think this is a very rare breakthrough in the relationship.
Currently, more than 8,000 South Korean companies have invested and operated in Việt Nam. These companies are of course helping the South Korean economy, but at the same time, they are also contributing a significant part to Việt Nam's economic development, creating many jobs for the Vietnamese people. Based on the potential of Việt Nam, the RoK government is and will continue to actively support the development of Việt Nam.
Until now, the COVID-19 pandemic has not completely ended. Along with that, fluctuations in the global supply chain are happening rapidly, so I think that South Korea and Việt Nam need to work together and make efforts to overcome these challenges.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, exchanges between the two countries reached more than 5 million visitors, but this number has decreased significantly. In the future, we need to restore and expand people-to-people exchange activities, especially when there are currently more than 150,000 South Koreans living in Việt Nam and more than 200,000 Vietnamese people living in South Korea. Currently, there are more than 60,000 Vietnamese students studying in South Korea and this is the largest international student community in our country. More specifically, there are currently about 80,000 South Korean-Vietnamese multicultural families living here. South Korea and Việt Nam are indeed forming a very close partnership. We must continue to develop this close bilateral relationship in the future.
Could you please tell us what the upcoming visit to RoK by Vietnamese President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc means for the bilateral relationship between Việt Nam and RoK and the prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the near future?
President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc's visit to RoK this time will be a major turning point in the development of the two countries' relations. I think that on the occasion of RoK and Việt Nam's 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, our two countries will look back on the past 30 years and develop a plan to strongly promote the relationship in the next 30 years.
In the context of unpredictable changes in the world and region, it is time for South Korea and Việt Nam to make efforts and plan strategies to overcome these challenges together. I believe and expect that during this official visit to South Korea, through the meeting between President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and President Yoon Suk-yeol, the two leaders will discuss and present new development direction for the two countries in the future. The fields of economic, trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges between our two countries will also be promoted. On the basis of the solid trust that has been built between the two countries in the past, I am confident that cooperation in the defence industry will be further strengthened, bringing the relationship between the two countries to new heights.
At the recent ASEAN-South Korea Summit, President Yoon Suk-yeol emphasised the central role of ASEAN and affirmed to continue to develop relations with ASEAN based on ASEAN's vision for the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions. In South Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy, to contribute to freedom, peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, ASEAN is identified as the most important region and Việt Nam is an extremely important partner of South Korea. Therefore, I hope that through this visit, the "ASEAN-South Korea Solidarity Initiative" will be concretised and realised through cooperation with South Korea and Việt Nam in the future.
South Korean people have high expectations for President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc's visit because Việt Nam plays a very important role for us, especially in coordinating the dialogue between South Korea and ASEAN.
How will the economic cooperation between the two countries be strengthened?
South Korea is the number one investor in Việt Nam and as mentioned above, I am very pleased that the trade turnover between the two countries has increased more than 160 times in the past 30 years. That shows a very successful economic cooperation relationship between the two countries. In the context that economic security cooperation for supply chain stability and recovery is becoming increasingly important, I think it's time for South Korea and Việt Nam to continue making more efforts in this area.
South Korea and Việt Nam participate in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), so there are many cooperation opportunities. I believe that South Korea and Việt Nam will strengthen cooperation in the future to create economic standards in the region. In addition, because Việt Nam owns many rare and important minerals, cooperation in these fields is also very urgent. And in this time of upgrading bilateral relations to a new level, we intend to actively operate a high-level dialogue channel and support South Korean companies investing in Việt Nam to expand cooperation. cooperation in the fields of digital, renewable energy and high technology of the future.
Việt Nam is a leading country in renewable energy. In the field of solar power, Việt Nam's electricity output in 2021 has increased by more than 300 per cent compared to the previous year. Therefore, Việt Nam has reached the top 10 in the world and is considered as a country with a faster growth rate in this field than any other country in the world. South Korea and Việt Nam need to further expand cooperation in the field of renewable energy. At the same time, leaders at all levels of Việt Nam are also very interested in solving problems of South Korean businesses operating in Việt Nam.
How do you evaluate the strengthening of cooperation in people-to-people exchanges and cultural fields?
During my visit to Việt Nam last October, I felt more clearly that South Korea and Việt Nam have many similarities. The people of both countries value family, are diligent, respect elders and actively participate in community activities. Special attention is paid to investment in education. When walking on the streets of Việt Nam, I see many busy mothers taking their children to school, just like in South Korea. On the basis of those commonalities, I think it is necessary to make efforts so that the people of the two countries, especially the young generation, can better understand and interact with each other.
In South Korea, I think the Hallyu culture is another soft power that makes South Korea a country with global appeal. Hallyu culture is also very popular in Việt Nam, so I think this is also an area that should be promoted exchange between the younger generation in the future. Currently, the two countries have also begun to have cooperation in the creation of K-POP content. When I came to speak at the Diplomacy Academy of Việt Nam last October, I saw that Vietnamese students loved the videos of BTS and the South Korean girl group New Jeans. I think cultural exchanges between the two countries will continue to be further enhanced through digital platforms. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively promoting the friendship and cooperation between South Korea and Việt Nam through a digital platform (SOUTH KOREAZ). In the future, South Korea and Việt Nam will continue to orientate to strengthen people-to-people exchanges and cultural cooperation through interactive exchanges between the young generation and people-to-people diplomacy on a digital platform. VNS