Moon unveils vision for Korea’s cooperation with Mekong region

September 5, 2019

President Moon Jae-in on Thursday unveiled his vision to promote South Korea’s cooperation with Southeast Asian countries around the Mekong River.

He announced a special statement on Seoul’s commitment to the development and peace of the region after his summit with Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachith and a separate meeting with Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Vientiane.

“The entire world is now paying attention to the development of the Mekong region,” Moon said in the statement, as he looked around a Mekong area, where a South Korea-Laos joint project is underway for water security and integrated river basin management, together with Bounnhang.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and his Laotian counterpart, Bounnhang Vorachith, water a tree they planted together on the bank of the Mekong River in Vientiane on Sept. 5, 2019. (Yonhap)

He stressed that the dynamic nature and growth potential of Mekong countries and the spirit of mutual respect, above all, will open a new future of the world.

“South Korea hopes to prosper together with Mekong countries and expects the ‘miracle of the Han River’ to lead to the ‘miracle of the Mekong River,’” he added.

He presented a three-point vision for the goal: prosperity based on sharing experience, sustainable growth and East Asia peace and coprosperity.

South Korea has lots of experience in the development of farm villages and plans to share its know-how on manpower training and growth with other nations. It’s also willing to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution by sharing technology with them, according to Moon.

On the sustainable prosperity vision, the president cited the need to protect the Mekong River from climate change and natural disasters.

He suggested the green growth strategy to connect Mekong’s resources with bio and medical sectors.

As Mekong countries are seeking coprosperity as South Korea does, Moon pointed out, a priority is to set up various infrastructure.

“South Korea will support the construction of roads, bridges, railways and ports among Mekong nations,” he said.

He expressed hope for additional discussions on the vision at the inaugural South Korea-Mekong summit, which will involve Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, to be held in Busan on Nov. 27.

It will be followed by a two-day South Korea-ASEAN special summit in the city to commemorate the 30th anniversary of bilateral dialogue.

Moon arrived in the Laotian capital earlier in the day, becoming the first South Korean leader to make a state visit to Laos since they established formal trade ties in 1973. In 1996, the two sides re-established diplomatic relations.

Vientiane is the last stop of his weeklong regional swing that also took him to Thailand and Myanmar.

In the summit with the Laotian president, Moon thanked him for constantly supporting his administration’s efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Bounnhang traveled to South Korea in 2002, when he was prime minister, which Moon said opened a new chapter in relations between the two sides.

He also visited North Korea and played a “bridge role” between the two Koreas, Moon said.

The Laotian leader said Moon’s trip will serve as an opportunity to advance friendly bilateral ties.

Moon also met with Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

South Korea and Laos signed four memorandums of understanding (MOUs), including one about Seoul’s plan to offer US$500 million through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) between 2020 and 2023.

The other MOUs call for closer cooperation on agriculture, startups and ICT.