By the Numbers: South Korea’s Expanding Relations with ASEAN

The data driving Asia

South Korea and the countries of ASEAN are important strategic partners with shared political, economic, and cultural interests. Relations between South Korea and ASEAN have seen significant growth and expansion, since the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership at the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit in Hanoi in 2010. South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye launched her “sales diplomacy” – a strategy that seeks to boost Korean economic and business interests through diplomacy – with a visit to Vietnam from September 7 -11, 2013, her third visit to a foreign country, after the United States and China, since becoming head of state. On October 17, Philippine president Benigno Aquino will make headlines as Park’s first head of state guest since she came into office. We look at this growing relationship by the numbers:

$20 billion

The volume of bilateral trade between Vietnam and South Korea in 2012. During Park’s visit to Vietnam, the two countries announced plans to finalize a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) by 2014. South Korea is also in the process of negotiating an FTA with Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

President Park in Vietnam

President Park Geun-hye wearing traditional Korean Hanbok in Hanoi, Vietnam on September 8, 2013. Source: Korea.Net’s flickr photostream used under a creative commons license.


Vietnam’s rank in Asia as a destination for outward Korean foreign direct investment (FDI), after China and Hong Kong. South Korean conglomerate Samsung is building its third plant in northern Vietnam, worth $2 billion, which will be the company’s biggest manufacturing facility in the world.


The percentage of ownership held by Daewoo International in the Shwe gas project in western Myanmar. Daewoo is part of a multi-nation consortium involved in gas exploration and production in offshore Rakhine State, and has invested at least $4.8 billion to build an onshore gas terminal in the city of Kyaukpyu. Daewoo is also considering expanding exploration in the Bay of Bengal off Myanmar’s coast.


Percentage of South Korean foreign visitors out of all tourist arrivals in the Philippines. About 1 million Koreans visited the Philippines in 2012, making Koreans the largest tourist group in the Philippines.


The percentage of the total budget of South Korea’s aid agency, the Korea International Cooperation Agency, allocated to Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, according to most recently available data in 2009. President Park’s deepening of ties with Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Philippine partners prompted a recent article in the Korea Times to refer to these three countries as the new VIPs of Korea’s foreign policy.




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