South Korea rolls out new policy to boost support for ASEAN
MANILA, Philippines — The South Korean government has announced a more advanced foreign policy strategy to provide additional support to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues in the region.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently announced the New Southern Policy (NSP) Plus strategy in response to recent developments such as the COVID-19 and the emerging regional security environment in Southeast Asia, said Korean ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man.
“The NSP Plus Strategy lays out fresh, feasible initiatives centered on seven key areas of cooperation, of course including comprehensive healthcare cooperation,” Han said during a forum organized by the UP Korea Research Center on Thursday.
“It is my hope that Korea and ASEAN could enjoy co-prosperity by combining the five key areas proposed by ASEAN (in its comprehensive recovery framework) with the NSP Plus strategy,” he added.
The NSP Plus strategy is an advanced version of the NSP initiative launched three years ago by the Moon administration, which sought to strengthen cooperation between South Korea and ASEAN and develop a “people-centered community of peace and prosperity.”
While the NSP has already achieved a lot, Han said the new policy demands require innovative thinking and approach to achieve the initiative’s objectives.
In a column published in The STAR yesterday, the ambassador said the NSP “has now embarked on a new journey with reinforced commitment” as outlined in the new policy.
“With this strategy, Korea will spare no effort to further enhance its relations with its ASEAN friends, including the Philippines. Down the road, Korea will continue to hear Filipino voices to deliver the best outcome,” he wrote.
The new NSP Plus strategy was announced by Moon during the 21st Korean-ASEAN Summit last Nov. 16.
In his speech before ASEAN leaders who attended the summit virtually, Moon highlighted the challenges brought about by the pandemic and the closer cooperation between South Korea and the Southeast Asian nations.
“The impact of COVID-19 varies from country to country, and no country can let its guard down until treatments and vaccines are developed and distributed to all countries,” said the South Korean president.
“With this strategy, we will be able to take the lead in the post-COVID-19 era, and realize the vision of a people-centered community of peace and prosperity faster,” he added.
During the summit, Moon reiterated the commitment of South Korea to support ASEAN and its comprehensive recovery framework.
“Korea will join ASEAN in giving a helping hand to one another. Korea has shared infectious disease prevention equipment including test kits and face masks to the best of our circumstances, and Korea’s response to COVID-19 such as drive-thru and walk-thru screening stations. Korea will actively participate in the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and the ASEAN Plus Three reserve of essential medical supplies,” he said.
During the recent forum, Wongi Choe of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy said the NSP Plus was designed and planned to have a strong resonance with the recently approved recovery framework of the ASEAN.
“If you look at the details of the policy programs of the NSP Plus, the seven priorities overlap with the five broad strategies and priorities of ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework,” he said.
He noted the inclusion of public health as among the seven priorities, something that was not specifically identified in the original NSP strategy.
“We aim for comprehensive health cooperation. The first priority is not just about simply supplying the health equipment and supplies,” he said, noting the plan of South Korea to double the size of its official development assistance funding devoted to health programs over the next five years.
Aside from public health, the key priorities of the NSP Plus strategy include education and human capital development; cultural exchanges; trade and investment; infrastructure development; future industries such as artificial intelligence and start-ups; and non-traditional security issues such as climate change and environment.
Southeast Asian leaders approved the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework during the leaders’ summit held earlier this month.
The recovery framework identified five broad strategies: enhancing health systems, strengthening human security, maximizing the potential of intra-ASEAN market and broader economic integration, accelerating inclusive digital transformation and advancing toward a more sustainable and resilient future.