Asean envoys meet despite COVID-19 to put Korea partnership back on track

25-Jun-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for Asean and Korea to follow up on their 2019 commemorative summit in Busan and spur cooperation through more frequent people-to-people exchanges.

Under the circumstances, a roundtable hosted by The Korea Times last week, as described by Asean-Korea Centre Secretary general Lee Hyuk, was “timely and meaningful” in helping Asean ambassadors to interact and facilitate partnerships between the two regions.

Mediated by Korea Times President-Publisher Oh Young-jin, the roundtable at the newspaper office in central Seoul, June 15, was the first in a series of meetings with ambassadors planned this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the nation’s first English-language newspaper.

Sponsored by the Asean-Korea Centre, a Seoul-based intergovernmental organisation promoting relations with Asean, the June 15 gathering attracted heads of diplomatic missions from all 10 Asean member states.

The 10 guests were nine ambassadors Pg Hjh Nooriyah PLW Pg Hj Yussof of Brunei Darussalam, Long Dimanche of Cambodia, Umar Hadi of Indonesia, Thieng Boupha of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Dato’ Mohd Ashri Muda of Malaysia, Thant Sin of Myanmar, Eric Teo Boon Hee of Singapore, Rommanee Kananurak of Thailand, Nguyen Vu Tu of Vietnam plus Charge d’affaires Christian L. De Jesus of the Philippines. Secretary general Lee joined them.

The event was only the second time the guests have been able to meet since the spread of the coronavirus in Korea. The first time was on May 29 during a meeting hosted by the Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy.

Under theme “Korea-Asean efforts to fight COVID-19,” the envoys spoke about their respective countries’ experiences in dealing with coronavirus, their views on what is happening in Korea and how Asean and Korea can cooperate better in combating the pandemic.

“Facing the challenges of the coronavirus, the world, including Asean and Korea, are treading through an exceptional, unique and painful time,” Lee said in his congratulatory speech.

He reckoned having trouble in face-to-face exchanges with Asean makes the ambassadors “more important than ever” because they play a larger role in bolstering cooperation with Korea.

“They should be a key player in keeping the momentum of cooperation,” Lee said.

He viewed the role of the media, especially the English newspapers here, is also important in “bridging the communities of Asean and Korea.”

“In that regard, the roundtable is both timely and meaningful,” Lee added.

The longest-serving Asean ambassador in Korea and the interim chair of Asean Committee in Seoul (ACS), a group of Southeast Asian ambassadors here, Cambodian Ambassador Long thanked The Korea Times and the Asean-Korea Centre for organising the roundtable. “This is a great platform for discussion,” Long said, adding Asean sees Korea as a model country when it comes to COVID-19 response.

He underlined that each Southeast Asian country, while taking measures to stop the coronavirus, also has been working within Asean, as well as through the Asean-Korea network and expanded frameworks such as Asean Plus Three (China, Japan and Korea).

“Nothing is better than putting an issue on the table and discussing it together,” he said. “The more we talk within Asean and meet with dialogue partners, the more information and experiences we get in order to figure out the appropriate ways to overcome this pandemic.”

As of June 22, the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases by Asean countries were 141 in Brunei, 129 in Cambodia, 46,845 in Indonesia, 19 in Laos, 8,587 in Malaysia, 290 in Myanmar, 30,682 in the Philippines, 42,313 in Singapore, 3,151 in Thailand and 349 in Vietnam.

Brunei and Laos have no more active cases, while Cambodia has two, Indonesia has 25,610, Malaysia has 289, Myanmar has 84, the Philippines has 21,362, Singapore has 6,697, Thailand has 71 and Vietnam has 21.

On death tolls, Brunei reported three, Indonesia 2,500, Malaysia 121, Myanmar six, the Philippines 1,177, Singapore 26 and Thailand 58. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam reported no deaths.


Category: Regional

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