Synopsis

ASEAN and South Korea recently held a summit to mark 25 years of partnership. President Park Geun-hye spoke confidently of ASEAN and South Korea working together to build a multilateral “Asian Community”.

Commentary

 

ASEAN and South Korea held their commemorative summit in Busan on 11-12 December 2014, seeking to strengthen their increasingly important partnership amid growing uncertainties in the region. The 21st century is predicted to be an Asian century, so can ASEAN and South Korea help to realise an “Asian Community”? لعبت روليت

 

What steps can they take to leverage their middle-power status to promote economic, cultural and security integration in the region? Can they become the bridge between Northeast and Southeast Asia?

 

Why an “Asian Community”

Under the theme of “Building Trust and Bringing Happiness”, the Commemorative Summit celebrated the growing economic significance of the region. Asian nations recorded GDP growth exceeding five percent between 2007 and 2013, and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is being launched next year. South Korea also presented its vision for the future with President Park’s Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative, which is based on the foreign policy philosophy of trustpolitik.

 

In line with this, there is growing enthusiasm for the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which Seoul hopes can lead to an “East Asian Economic Community”. With the US’ pivot to Asia strategy and China’s assertive behaviour, ASEAN and South Korea have acquired increasing geostrategic importance. Both have been seeking to build networks with other middle powers – with India, Australia, and perhaps Japan. Can this be a step towards developing an “Asian Security Community” based on mutual economic interdependence?

 

South Korea and several ASEAN members are former colonies, and this experience of dealing with great powers should prove useful in confronting the rise of China. There is also great potential for socio-cultural exchanges, for example South Korea is promoting its Saemaul Undong rural development programme, and the Korean Wave is popular throughout ASEAN. Similar middle classes are beginning to emerge throughout the Asia-Pacific, and frequent person-to-person interchanges through business and tourism are building a resource of soft power.