KUALA LUMPUR,6 NOV – South Korea has urged Malaysia to ride-on its 40 years of vibrant bilateral relationship and embark on a new ‘Look East Again Policy’ (LEAP) policy for the next four decades.
In making the call, South Korean ambassador Yeo Sueng-bae said that building on the 40 years of bilateral development, his country intended to be a reliable partner for Malaysia’s audacious goal of becoming a top 30 global economy, driven by the latter’s ‘Madani Economy’.
“Over the years, the ‘Look East Policy’ (LEP) has been a pivotal driving force in the development of a cooperative relationship between South Korea and Malaysia.
“Both nations have engaged in exchanges in a broad spectrum of fields including high-level diplomacy, economics, society and culture.
“This exhibition is organised to look back on the footsteps of progress that both countries have made together,” Yeo said at the ‘40 Years of the ‘Look East Policy’: Malaysia-South Korea’ archive exhibition launch at the Tun Hussein Onn Memorial in Jalan Datuk Onn.
Present was National Unity Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang.
Yeo explained that the LEP began with 53 Malaysian trainees’ visiting companies like Hyundai Motor in South Korea, marking the inception of industrial collaboration between both countries.
“I am pleased to see the positive contribution to the national development of Malaysia, through this journey.
“To date, nearly 5,000 Malaysian officials, students and professionals have acquired knowledge on how to move forward in areas such as industrialisation, policy-making, combating infectious diseases and the digital economy.
“They have returned to Malaysia as leaders in various sectors, serving as bridges connecting South Korea and Malaysia. “During their time there, they became acquainted with the Korean culture and language and today, many Malaysians are enthusiastic fans of Hallyu, including K-Dramas and K-pop,” Yeo said.
He added that the cultural ties had brought both nations even closer, notably in people-to-people exchange and economic cooperation.
“The number of South Koreans visiting Malaysia in the first half of this year almost reached 200,000, ranking seventh among global tourists.
“In the meantime, the number of Malaysians visiting South Korea, which was around 10,000 in the early 1990s, has surged to 140,000 by August this year, ranking them 11th among all overseas tourists,” the envoy revealed.
As for the bilateral trade volume, Yeo said it had expanded over 33 times from around US$800 million in the early 1980s to US#26.7 billion last year.
“Currently, Malaysia stands as South Korea’s 8th largest trading partner and 7th largest investment destination.
“Over 400 South Korean companies have created job opportunities for numerous locals in Malaysia.
“In addition to this, there are several notable achievements especially this year.
“In February, an agreement had been made to introduce South Korea’s FA-50 fighter aircraft to Malaysia, contributing to the enhancement of the capabilities of the Malaysian air force.
“In May, Korean beef with halal certification began to be imported to Malaysia, allowing Malaysians to enjoy premium Korean beef, a key ingredient in Korean cuisine,” said Yeo.
In October, the inaugural ‘South Korea-Malaysia High-Level Climate Dialogue’ was launched.
This was Malaysia’s first bilateral discussion channel with other country on climate issues.
The success of the LEP, Yeo said, had been primarily due to the determination of the leaders of both countries.
Over the years, eight South Korean Presidents had visited Malaysia, and the Malaysian king and prime ministers also had made reciprocal visits, generating a momentum to further enhance bilateral relations.
Recently, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol held his first summit with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during the Asean-related summit.
“The two leaders reaffirmed both countries’ strong commitment to consider each other as key partners and to strengthen cooperation in the future,” Yeo said.
Meanwhile, Aaron reminisced how former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had in 1983, launched the LEP that aimed to gain knowledge of best practises from East Asian countries namely Japan, South Korea dan Taiwan.
“This nation-building exercise sought to decode the secrets of success in East Asian countries and translate it into Malaysia’s development plans.
“The belief in East Asian labour ethics, management capability, foresight, technological skills and high morale contributed to the formulation of LEP.
“The exhibition serves more significantly, to sustain the momentum in strengthening the robust bond of unity between our two nations.
“The LEP served as a catalyst, fostering closer cooperation across various sectors, particularly in the fields of economy, education, culture, and tourism.
“This achievement was undoubtedly born from the unity that transcends the borders of religion, culture and race within this nation.
“Unity unites us amid the diverse and unique aspects that exist,” said Aaron.
He added that Malaysia took pride in being the 12th foreign country that established diplomatic relations with South Korea,
He said it was a clear testament to the status of South Korea to Malaysia, which should act as an impetus towards the elevation of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in the future.
Aaron revealed that estimated 15,000 South Koreans and 5,000 Malaysians lived and worked in Malaysia and South Korea, respectively.
“The numbers are increasing each year and it is a sign of warm and cordial people-to-people relations between the countries.
“To understand the heart of South Koreans, their ways of thinking, and the methods that transform a conservative nation into an innovative and dynamic one, we must dive deep into Korean culture and society,” Aaron said.
He highlighted a few of success stories through the implementation of the LEP.
In 2009, the establishment of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KOCHAM) was reciprocated with the setting up of the Malaysia Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) by SME Corporation of Korea (SBC); and in 2010 Berjaya Group invested US$100 million in a resort complex in Jeju island.
“Currently, there are 1,800 students in 26 secondary schools learning the Korean language.
“There there is military training as well as biennial visits between the South Korean Naval War College and its Malaysian counterpart to continue forge closer people-to-people exchanges.
“The Korean Plaza in Malaysia houses the Korean Toursism Board and runs regular free classes, hanbuk trial, beauty, cooking, language, tourism and cultural programmes.
“It also promotes Korean heritage sites, culture and food,” Aaron said.
The Korean language course offered by the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR) offered Malaysian government officials and diplomats the opportunity to further strengthen cultural diplomacy between both countries.
“This represents a significant milestone in the history of the institute’s academic offerings and continues a longstanding relationship.
“Moreover, through the LEP, the Malaysian government consistently incorporates the best practices and role models from South Korea, adapting them to the Malaysian context.
“This is because Korea is experiencing rapid development, making it a valuable example for Malaysia to achieve its national development goals, enhancing the performance of both the public and private sectors,” he said.
Aaron revealed that from 1980 to current times, a total of 386 manufacturing projects with direct participation from South Korea were implemented, with total investments of US$9.4 billion.
“As such, South Korea has consistently ranked among Malaysia’s top ten major investors for many years, and it is a true reflection of the importance of South Korean investment to Malaysia’s economy.
“South Korea is Malaysia’s eighth-largest trading partner and seventh-largest foreign investor, while Malaysia ranks as it’s third-largest trading partner and fourth-largest investment destination among Asean countries,” Aaron said.
Malaysia currently hosts numerous prominent South Korean multinational companies, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, including Lotte Chemical (for Samsung smartphones and digital appliances); Hanwha Q-Cells (energy solution provider); Oriental Chemical Industries (OCI); Lotte Energy Material (rechargeable lithium battery material); Kiswire (steel wire industry): and Posco (steel).
Aaron revealed that the SPC Group had announced plans to establish its halal manufacturing hub in Malaysia, solidifying Malaysia’s position as a preferred investment location for Korean companies.
“Recent foreign direct investments by Korean companies are particularly significant, as they focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) and advanced, high value-added industries, aligning with the priorities championed by the Malaysian government.
“Malaysia has a strong, stable relations with South Korea. “This policy remains very relevant and has not only contributed to the broadening of bilaterial cooperation but has been vital in increasing regional cooperation,” he said.
Aaron added that further cooperation being worked on involved: Providing avenues for cultural and intellectual dialogue; Re-visiting the LEP; increasing the number of high-level engagements and summits; continue efforts in peacekeeping operations; further exploring avenues for better cooperation and management of the heritage; expanding exchange of workers from different sectors- journalists, teachers, diplomats and civil society; and increasing youth exchange programmes, post university work placements and cross-country internship.
On the exhibition, Aaron said that the National Archives of Malaysia had a vital role in strengthening the nation’s historical and cultural resources through its documentation and advocacy programs.
“This exhibition serves as a comprehensive introduction to approach and explore the history, journey, and achievements of South Korea in its quest to become a major economic power in the world.
“Exhibition materials include items stored and preserved, as well as materials in the custody of related institutions.
“I also hope that the National Archives of Malaysia can establish cooperation with South Korea to further disseminate its role so that advocacy programmes like this can have a positive impact among the younger generation who will be the torchbearers of the nation’s legacy.
“This effort is in line with the development concept of ‘Malaysia Madani’, which will also utilise a ‘whole of government approach’.
“My ministry will consistently provide support for ongoing initiatives and recognise intellectual programs that have the potential to become platforms for fostering community unity, strengthening consensus, and preserving our cultural traditions,” said Aaron.
He concluded that to take the LEP further, there needed to be institutional structures that comprehensively monitor such exchanges in order to develop it further.
“Greater understanding of cultural and social traditions contribute to better mutual understanding and play an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the wider region.
“I look forward to witnessing many more years of our successful and enduring economic partnership between Malaysia and South Korea.
“With the continued commitment from both sides, I am confident that both Malaysia and South Korea will soar to greater heights,” said Aaron. – airtimes.my
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