ASEAN Korea Center (AKC) Secretary General Lee Hyuk. Photo courtesy of AKC
On the threshold of the official visit to Việt Nam by the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea Park Byeong-seug and his spouse from October 31 to November 4, Vietnam News Agency correspondent in Seoul interviewed ASEAN Korea Center (AKC) Secretary General Lee Hyuk.
How do you see the significance of the Speaker’s visit to Việt Nam this time?
The significance of the Speaker’s visit to Việt Nam at this time is manifold. A visit by the highest ranking official of the National Assembly, especially during COVID-19, well demonstrates the importance of Việt Nam to Korea and the strong bonds shared by our two countries. It is also an expression of commitment to even greater partnership in the future, particularly as this region and the world strive to recover from the effects of COVID-19. Finally, the visit is also an expression of support for Việt Nam’s leadership as Chair of ASEAN for 2020.
Over the years, frequent visits by the leaders of Korea and Việt Nam to each other’s countries have greatly contributed to deepening Korea-Việt Nam ties and provided a firm basis on which our relations could flourish. The upcoming meeting of the two parliamentary leaders will be yet another timely opportunity to join efforts in overcoming the current difficulties caused by the pandemic and further broaden the scope of bilateral co-operation.
In fact, Korea and Việt Nam, both having shown early success in containing the spread of the coronavirus, are now working closely together to bring about early and effective economic recovery.
- In April, Việt Nam provided special entry for 340 Korean businessmen and since then the two countries have made arrangements to allow entry of essential travelers including businessmen to ensure continued business activities.
- In October, flights to and from Việt Nam and Korea resumed. This resumption, albeit partial, hopefully will provide some relief to the airline and tourism industries of the two countries which have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.
What do you think about the prospects of the Việt Nam-ROK ties in the future?
The relations between Việt Nam and Korea have been growing at a remarkable speed for the past 28 years. The numbers have continued to increase in all areas from trade (bilateral trade volume in 2019 reached US$70.3 billion), investments (Korea’s investment in Việt Nam in 2019 was $4.5 billion) to people-to-people exchanges (mutual visits in 2019 were 4.8 million) and this trend is expected to continue. Of course, the pandemic may have put a damper on the once burgeoning exchanges, but this is a temporary phenomenon and the exchanges will soon regain momentum. Indeed, even under the current difficulties, Korean companies continue to invest in Việt Nam (Korea’s investment in Việt Nam in the first half of 2020 was $1.4 billion) and expand business partnerships.
Prospects in the people-to-people relations are even brighter. In addition to the growing number of reciprocal travellers, currently there are over 58,000 Vietnamese students studying in Korea making up 31 per cent of total foreign students in Korea (second largest following China). Some of them continue their careers in Korean companies and are contributing to an even closer business partnership between Korea and Việt Nam.
There is also a growing number of young Koreans learning Vietnamese and seeking career opportunities in Việt Nam. As more people, especially among the younger generation, interact with each other, their understanding of each other will also increase creating positive and favourable environment for even greater cooperation.
What should Việt Nam and ROK do to further promote the bilateral ties for the benefits of the two peoples?
First and foremost, we need to put our hands together in combatting the coronavirus and revitalising the economy. Information-sharing and collaborative efforts will allow the two countries to effectively contain the spread of the virus which in turn will bring early resumption of full-fledged economic activities and exchanges between the two countries.
Second, Korea and Việt Nam need to explore new areas of co-operation as the two countries prepare for the post-COVID-19 period. Increased efforts to strengthen co-operation in areas of bio technology and health services as well as digital technology and on-tact services will allow the two countries to turn the current crisis into an opportunity for increased and future-oriented partnership.
In sum, given the close connection between peoples of the two countries and the mutually reinforcing nature of our bilateral relationship, I am confident that the coming years will witness even greater ties and stronger bonds. VNS