|Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and ROK President Moon Jae-in. Photo VGP
What is the significance of your state visit to Vietnam this time?
I am very pleased to visit Vietnam again just four months after I went to Da Nang to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. This is also my first overseas trip this year.
Immediately after taking office last May, I sent a special presidential envoy to ASEAN member states, including Vietnam. I was the first Korean President to do so. At that time, the Korean delegation led by the envoy was warmly welcomed by General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
I met with Prime Minister Phuc on the sidelines of the G20 Summit last July and President Quang during my stay in Da Nang last November to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Through these two occasions, we had extensive in-depth discussions on ways to further deepen friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
I have met with the Vietnamese leadership so often because Korea-Vietnam relations are very special.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, Korea and Vietnam have worked together to achieve remarkable progress on all fronts, including politics, the economy, culture and people-to-people exchanges. Especially since 2009, our two nations have intensified and advanced our strategic cooperative partnership.
Building on historic and cultural similarities and complementary economic structures, our two countries have developed a level of bilateral cooperation that can set an example for the world.
Bilateral trade surged after the Korea-Vietnam FTA came into effect at the end of 2015, reaching US$63.9 billion in 2017. Vietnam has now emerged as Korea’s fourth largest trading partner while Korea has become Vietnam’s second biggest trading partner.
In addition, Korea is the largest investor in Vietnam with an accumulated investment amount of US$57.9 billion. Vietnam is a crucial investment destination for Korea, which is evidenced by the fact that more than half of Korean businesses (some 5,500 out of about 8,600) operating in the ASEAN region have a presence in the country.
At the same time, Vietnam is Korea’s primary Official Development Assistance partner (ODA), and Korea is the second largest ODA provider for Vietnam. Over the past 30 years, a variety of development cooperation projects totaling US$1.65 billion have been carried out in Vietnam.
Moreover, Vietnam has the most people-to-people exchanges with Korea among ASEAN member states. In 2017, approximately 2.7 million visitors traveled back and forth between our two countries. There are roughly 170,000 Vietnamese nationals residing in Korea while some 150,000 Koreans are staying in Vietnam.
As such, Vietnam is a key partner and invaluable friend for Korea. Through my state visit this time, I intend to further deepen friendship and trust with the Vietnamese leadership. Based on this, I hope to elevate our strategic cooperative partnership a step higher.
In addition, I hope our two nations will be able to respond effectively to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one of the most-talked-about issues across the globe, and create future growth engines together, thereby laying a solid groundwork for building mutually complementary, future-oriented cooperative ties.
Furthermore, I plan to meet with Vietnamese business leaders, people from Korean-Vietnamese bicultural families and ordinary Vietnamese citizens during my visit, with a view to expanding common ground between our two peoples and further cementing our friendship.
At the RoK-ASEAN Summit held in November last year, I unveiled a vision of creating a future Korea-ASEAN community and spoke of my determination to comprehensively upgrade cooperation with ASEAN member states. My visit this time will serve as a chance to lay out a blueprint for the development of the future Korea-ASEAN community through Korea-Vietnam cooperation that will make exemplary progress in all aspects.
In which directions would you steer RoK-Vietnam economic cooperation in the years to come?
The two key phrases that I have in relation to economic cooperation between our two nations are "mutually beneficial cooperation" and "cooperation for common future growth."
When it comes to mutually beneficial cooperation, I am convinced that economic cooperation between two nations can only be sustainable when both parties enjoy the benefits. I will pursue economic cooperation between our two nations in a mutually beneficial way that contributes to our common prosperity.
Last year saw bilateral trade amount to US$63.9 billion, an increase of more than 40 percent in one year, and thus, RoK became Vietnam's second largest trading partner while Vietnam emerged as Korea's fourth largest trading partner.
The realization of the goal of increasing bilateral trade to US$100 billion by 2020 is making smooth headway, and currently, economic cooperation remains brisk as demonstrated by the fact that Korea emerged as the largest investor in Vietnam with investments amounting to US$57.9 billion.
The RoK Government will strive to address trade imbalance between our two nations through cooperation in the parts and materials industry and automobile industry, which is being pushed for mutually beneficial enhancement of industrial capabilities, as well as through various cooperative projects aimed at strengthening Vietnam's competence in the export of agro-fishery products.
In addition, it is very important for our two countries to make joint endeavors to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and create future growth engines. I hope bilateral cooperation in new industries such as the Smart City and ICT will strengthen the foundation to promote future-oriented economic cooperation between our two nations.
During my upcoming visit, I am planning to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Vietnam-Korea Institute of Science and Technology (VKIST), which I think is a fine example of "mutually beneficial cooperation" and "cooperation for common future growth."
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), the model of the VKIST, was founded 50 years ago in line with the Korean Government's initiative to invest foreign aid funds in its future by nurturing science and technology, including industrial technology, instead of securing food to address the immediate hunger of the people. Since then, the institute has served as a cradle of science and technology education, fostering numerous talented individuals who contributed to the development of the country's key strategic industries such as automobiles, electronics and heavy and chemical industries. It has thus worked as a driving force behind Korea’s industrialization and economic development. I hope the groundbreaking for VKIST this time will be remembered as a historic occasion that marks a crucial milestone in Vietnam's development into a modern industrialized state.
The Republic of Korea will continue to seek ways to promote mutually beneficial cooperation that can make contributions to Vietnam's plan to build a modern industrialized state by 2020.
What is your assessment of the role of people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, especially the role of businesses and residents, including students, in the other country?
Among the ASEAN member states, Vietnam has the largest number of people-to-people exchanges with Korea as well as the largest number of Korean businesses in operation. The people and businesses involved in these bilateral exchanges and cooperation are acting as both engine and bridge, making it possible for Vietnam and Korea to build a genuine partnership.
Last year, the number of Vietnamese and Koreans visiting the other country surpassed 2.7 million. Now around 150,000 Koreans reside in Vietnam, while about 170,000 Vietnamese live in Korea. In addition, Vietnam is Korea’s biggest investment destination. Around 5,500 Korean businesses operate in Vietnam, strengthening our bilateral economic cooperation.
Most of all, about 70,000 bicultural families in Korea (which include many Vietnamese nationals) are connecting the peoples of our two countries as “one family through in-law relationships.” Moreover, I believe that they are invaluable assets that will lead the development of bilateral relations in the years to come.
I feel delighted and reassured about the fact that young peoples of the two nations - the leaders of the future generation - are involved in cultural exchanges, including the spread of the Korean Wave, and are raising the level of mutual understanding, forming empathy and deepening friendship. I heard that the number of Vietnamese students studying in Korea is rising rapidly, doubling from 7,000 in 2016 to 14,000 in 2017. Their areas of study are also becoming more diverse.
I am very pleased with the increasing number of Vietnamese students in Korea and the continued diversification of areas of their study. I intend to take an interest in the issue and provide necessary support for them so that they will grow into a bulwark of the development of our bilateral partnership in the years to come.
A while ago, my wife invited Vietnamese students studying in Korea to Cheong Wa Dae. She said she was proud of the students who were studying hard to gain knowledge and technological expertise in various areas, dreaming of making contributions not only to their country but also to the development of the relationship between our two countries.
I heard that President Ho Chi Minh selected talented young individuals and sent them to study abroad even during difficult times. The students, who devoted themselves to studying abroad by upholding the profound intention of Bac Ho, later returned to Vietnam and played significant roles in achieving the development of their country of today.
The fervor for education, which makes it possible to take great interest in the development of the next generation and to spare no expense on it, is a virtue that our two countries have traditionally maintained and developed. I believe that this fervor is also leading the mutual prosperity and development of our two countries today and bringing their peoples ever closer.
In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly congratulate Vietnam's national under-23 football team on finishing second under the direction of head coach Park Hang-seo in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in late January. I am pleased by the fact that the feat symbolically demonstrated the "Korea-Vietnam Magic" that anything can be achieved if Korea and Vietnam join forces together through sports.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, Hoang Xuan Vinh, a sports shooter, accomplished the feat of winning the very first Olympic gold medal for Vietnam under the direction of his coach Park Chung-gun. Now members of the Vietnamese national teams in seven different disciplines, including soccer and shooting, are training hard under the guidance of Korean coaches. I hope they will enjoy even better results in the months to come.
The RoKGovernment intends to continue expanding bilateral cooperation in sports to create yet more Korea-Vietnam Magic. I hope the Vietnamese people will be able to fully feel a growing sense of the friendship between the two countries, which is being cemented every day through sports.
Thank you very much!Nhan Dan