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[ASEAN-Korea summit] Korea and ASEAN jointly create harmony

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, was yet again engulfed in a wave of enthusiasm for South Korean soccer coach Park Hang-seo. On Nov. 14, the country’s national soccer team, led by Park, beat the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in the 2022 Qatar World Cup’s second qualifying round, securing first place in its group. Waving Korea’s national flag, the Taegeukgi, Vietnamese soccer fans sang their national team’s fight songs. This scene is not unfamiliar to us anymore.

In September, Bangkok was charged with fervent excitement for Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. That’s because a crowd of about 45,000 fans were swarming KCON Thailand 2019, a leading Hallyu event in that country. The concert lineup listed 18 K-pop acts, including GOT7, AB6IX and ChungHa, as well as renowned YouTubers from Korea and Thailand. Thrilled fans from Korea and Southeast Asia erupted in cheers.

The number of tourists traveling between Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries tops 11 million each year. They play no less important roles than professional diplomats when it comes to exchanges and cooperation between Korea and the ASEAN region. Tourism exchanges continue to rise -- they were up about 15.2 percent in 2017 and about 15 percent in 2018. This trend indicates how close Korea and ASEAN have become.

Park Yang-woo, minister of culture sports and tourism (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)
Park Yang-woo, minister of culture sports and tourism (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

As such, Korea and ASEAN are good neighbors actively engaging in exchanges in various fields. During the 2017 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit in Manila, the Philippines, the Korean government’s vision to create a “people-centered community of peace and prosperity” in cooperation with ASEAN was declared, and the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit will soon be held in Busan, Nov. 25-26.

Relations between Korea and ASEAN are growing deeper. I believe that the most important key to strengthening bilateral ties further is “culture.” This is because it’s possible to deepen mutual understanding by appreciating each other’s cultures since a society’s history, traditions, lifestyles and values are reflected in its culture. Nowadays, content firms are leading economic innovation in many countries, and thus culture serves as the cradle of original content that generates economic prosperity as well. Korea and ASEAN can also share economic prosperity through cultural exchanges and cooperation.

In October, the Korean government hosted the 2019 Special Meeting of ASEAN-ROK Ministers Responsible for Culture and Arts at the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju. With a shared understanding of how important cultural cooperation is, participating culture ministers agreed to actively explore cooperative projects in the cultural content sector to help create more opportunities for future generations to realize their dreams.

On Nov. 24, the eve of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit, the ASEAN Fantasia concert will be held in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. BoA and Psy from Korea, Phum Viphurit from Thailand, Noo Phuoc Thinh from Vietnam and other popular singers representing Korea and ASEAN member states will be performing. Some 3,000 immigrants from ASEAN countries living in Korea will be invited to the show, and a message about Korea-ASEAN cooperation through culture will be presented.

On Nov. 25, world-renowned content producers will gather at the ASEAN-ROK Culture Innovation Summit. Participants include Big Hit Entertainment CEO Bang Si-hyuk, producer of the leading Hallyu boy band BTS, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Heads of state and government from ASEAN member states and the general public will be able to listen to lectures by world leaders of culture at this venue.

Culture can lead to happiness. People feel happy when they listen to the music they like and watch films with their friends and TV dramas with their family. Sharing happiness with others does not reduce one’s own. On the contrary, it makes it grow larger still. There are many similarities and differences in the cultures of Korea and ASEAN member states. Levels of happiness will undoubtedly rise when people come together and enjoy each other’s cultures. It is similar to musical instruments with distinct sounds coming together to create a novel harmony. I expect to see the Commemorative Summit and accompanying cultural events become a venue for joyful harmony that can bring everyone from Korea and ASEAN member states together.

By Park Yang-woo
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism