South Korea calls for setting up new “Regional Architecture”

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi. South Korea is for setting up a rules-based and inclusive “regional architecture” even as countries in the region find it difficult to manage the pulls from competing initiatives from the United States and China, said Coordinator of South Korea Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy Chung Eui-hae delivering her special address in a symposium here.

Speaking at the symposium ‘Towards building a more robust India-Korea partnership’ organised by Observer Research Foundation in association with the Korea Foundation, she said many countries feel the pull of various competing initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Indo-Pacific strategy, “it is in all of our interest to work together to strengthen a regional architecture that is rules based, open, transparent and inclusive”.

Noting that growing US-China rivalry and competition, which in recent days have manifested in increased trade frictions, was alarming, especially for the region, she said “as a treaty ally of the US, with China as our biggest trading partner, Korea increasingly faced difficulties in managing relations with these important partners, that is hardly unique for countries in the region”.

Elaborating President Moon’s New Southern Policy, Chung Eui-Hae said there were several strategic considerations behind this initiative. “First, there is a sense that Korea needs to engage more actively with regional partners like India on key strategic issues,” she added.

“Through the New Southern Policy, we seek to expand the foundations of prosperity in the region by forging a future oriented, mutually beneficial and sustained economic cooperation with India,” she said.

“India is often dubbed the next China. I would have to beg to differ. India, with its high growth rate, its growing working age population and middle class and its openness to foreign direct investment, has the potential to become Beyond China,” said Chung Eui-Hae.

“India is poised to not only run but fly,” she added referring to the quote from the IMF that described India as “elephant that’s starting to run”.

However, she also pointed out the need to make doing business easier in India as many smaller Korean businesses “seem to have a genuine difficulty in navigating the complexities of doing business in India due to its sheer size.”

She suggested that India and Korea could also study the possibility of a trilateral cooperation on relevant projects with ASEAN countries. “Such joint ventures could maximize both of our countries role and influence in the region while contributing to the region’s prosperity,” she said.