Korea has role regionally in ASEAN and bilaterally with Thailand: envoy

2019.04.19 15:29:33 | 2019.04.19 16:17:13

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South Korea is a valuable player in Smart City and other intergovernmental initiatives across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the times of transition to fourth industrial revolution and also bilaterally with Thailand in new growth areas of future mobility and other innovations, according to Thai Ambassador to Korea.

“Thailand has ‘Thailand 4.0’ EEC projects and Korea has new southern policy. So Thailand and Korea can have some projects based on the policies of two countries,” Thai ambassador to South Korea Singtong Lapisatepun said in an interview with Maeil Business News.

Korea hosts a special summit of ASEAN in November in Busan to celebrate 30th anniversary of relationship between the country and regional bloc, and President Moon Jae-in is expected to hold separate meetings with leaders from ASEAN, including this year’s chair Thailand.

“Advancing partnership for sustainability” is the goal for Thailand’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year, and Thailand will keep focusing on main topics like Smart City projects joined by Korea, added Lapisatepun.

He called for deepening and broadening in exchanges and cooperation as the Thais have become the biggest visitors to Korea among ASEAN members. Thai tourists jumped to 558,912 last year, outnumbering 461,168 Filipinos and 457,818 Vietnamese.

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- Question: Thailand held general election last month. The final outcome of the vote will be announced in May. How do you expect Thailand’s economic and investment policies to change after the election?

- Lapisatepun: Election is a long-waited in Thailand. Political parties are trying to form a coalition – it is not official – and they need a coalition. What I can sure is that there would be no change in main policies, even economic policies, under the new government. Thailand is the open country and we need to draw foreign investment. Either party becomes government of the cabinet, continuity of policy will be there. Thailand last year set a national strategy for the next 20 years for innovation in IT, biotech and automobile sectors, and that is main framework that the new cabinet has to follow.

- Question: Thailand is the chair of ASEAN this year. When Singapore was the chair last year, one of the main topics was smart city that Korea has participated in some projects. What agenda will Thailand focus on this year as the ASEAN chair? What roles can Korea play for the agenda?

- Lapisatepun: Important thing is continuity. Theme of our chairmanship this year is advancing partnership for sustainability. With this, we would like to cooperate among ASEAN countries and at same time our partners. Korea is our important partner, and we would like to enhance our partnership with Korea, which has plenty of rooms to come to help to be part of ASEAN initiatives. For example, Smart city. Korea is very famous for Smart city. Smart city projects like that I saw in Incheon were very impressive. In other areas like IT, Korean brands are very strong with 4th revolution high technology. Like innovation, new generation automobile advanced industry, Korea has good expertise that can work with ASEAN friends.

- Question: A special summit between Korea and ASEAN will be held in Busan in November to mark the 30th anniversary of their bilateral relations. What topics need to be discussed at the summit in order to develop relations between Thailand and Korea?

- Lapisatepun: The Summit is between ASEAN and Korea. We will talk about a bigger picture. Thailand is lucky to be chair of ASEAN this year. We should evaluate past 30 years to prepare another 30 years, learn from history and find future. When we think about relationship between Thailand and Korea, Thailand has ‘Thailand 4.0’ EEC projects and Korea has new southern policy. So Thailand and Korea can have some projects based on their policies. Among the 10 ASEAN member countries, Thai tourists visit South Korea the most. Since economic cooperation, such as investment in goods and services, started with private exchanges, we need to further promote people to people exchanges to help we could get to better understand each other. Private-level relations are important as much as government-level talks.

- Question: Many events will be prepared for Thai Festival. What is new at this year’s festival compared to last year? What programs or events do you strongly recommend at the Thai festival?

- Lapisatepun: The festival that opened at COEX last year will be held at Cheonggye Plaza this year with a theme “So Thai Festival.” If you come to the festival, you will say “So Thai” and feel like you are in Thailand. Thailand has an image of traditional culture such as temple, but you will find new and modern aspects of Thailand. This year’s showcase is contemporary art. There will be Thai artists and entertainers in contemporary art.

- Question: Thailand held general election last month. The final outcome of the vote is expected in May. Based on the results released by the Election commission, the Palang Pracharat Party received the highest number of popular votes. How do you expect Thailand’s economic and investment policies to change after the election? Could you give us your opinion about Thailand’s economic outlook after the election?

- Lapisatepun: No matter what the general election results, Thailand’s economic and investment policies will remain unchanged. Economic development and competitiveness enhancement will remain one of the six key strategies that the new government needs to achieve as required by the 20-Year National Strategy, which has come into effect since October last year. Key economic policies, such as Thailand 4.0 and the development of Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), will remain the top economic policy priority and certainly be taken forward. Investment in the 10 targeted industries will be continuously promoted. For Thailand’s economic outlook, this year we expect the Thai economy to grow between 3.5 - 4.5%. Steady growth in tourism, investment and export will remain the key drivers of the Thai economy. The country’s strong economic fundamentals will continue to safeguard Thailand from the impact of global financial crises or economic downturns and to attract foreign direct investment and capital inflows.

- Question: What positive changes do you expect in Thailand after the general election?

- Lapisatepun: After the Election Commission (EC) officially releases the results of the general election by 9 May 2019, we expect to see a coalition government with a certain degree of stability successfully formed. With an elected government taking office and concrete policies put in place, we expect to see a boost in the consumer confidence and a major improvement in the business environment. Thailand’s key economic policies, for instance, Thailand 4.0 and the development of Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and other infrastructure development mega-projects, because of its significance, will likely be pushed forward. We also expect to see several innovative and economic friendly policies proposed during the election campaign being implemented.

By Lim Young-sin and Lee Ha-yeon

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