Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (RoK) Park Byeong-seug spoke to the Vietnam News Agency about prospects of bilateral relations between RoK and Việt Nam ahead of the visit to RoK by Chairman of the National Assembly of Việt Nam Vương Đình Huệ
Next year, Việt Nam and Korea will celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Would you please assess the effectiveness of the Vietnam-Korea cooperation over the past years and through the official visit to Korea of Vương Đình Huệ, Chairman of the National Assembly of Việt Nam, how can it improve bilateral relations in the near future?
Over the last 29 years since our two nations established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, we have made incredible and significant strides in our relationship in all aspects, including the areas of economy and human exchange. In terms of economic relations, our bilateral trade volume has increased by an impressive 140 times over the last 29 years since 1992. For Việt Nam, Korea is its largest investor country, its second-largest ODA contributor, and its third-largest trading partner. For Korea, Việt Nam is our fourth-largest trading partner. In terms of person-to-person exchanges nearly 5 million Koreans have visited Việt Nam, while about 600,000 Vietnamese people have come to visit Korea. This unparalleled level of achievements between our two nations in the fields of economic and human exchanges was possible thanks to the fact that we share historical, cultural, and even emotional similarities. It was also possible due to the dedicated efforts and commitment of the leaders of our nations, including my colleague parliamentarians.
I am eagerly looking forward to meeting with Chairman Vương Đình Huệ. As a matter of fact, I have had a couple of direct and indirect meetings with him. Last year, I had a video conference with him. We also met and shared our views at the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament held in Vienna. From these encounters, I have a very positive impression that he is a person of strong determination to follow up on our discussions and move things forward. This made me trust him instantly and hope that we could be friends.
His visit will deepen our bilateral relations on multiple levels: between Heads of State, Speakers, and parliamentarians. During this meeting, I will discuss issues that require our joint efforts in the region, such as economic matters, human exchanges, and the current international political developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula as well as our cooperation on the global stage. I am very much looking forward to meeting him again.
How do you view the parliamentarian cooperation between Việt Nam and Korea?
First, Việt Nam is a pivot country in our New Southern Policy. It is a very important strategic cooperative partner for us. This meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss how to elevate our strategic cooperative partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership next year, which marks the 30th anniversary of our diplomatic ties.
Our parliaments will also discuss issues that hamper logistics and human exchanges between our two nations, how to overcome these hurdles, and how to institutionalise what our governments have agreed to from a big-picture perspective.
In terms of exchanges at the level of parliamentary leaders, I visited the Chairman of the Vietnamese NA last year, and now Mr. Huệ is visiting us. The members of our parliaments even had a football match once. We have a plan to continue to boost our parliamentary friendship program. It is in this context that we have appointed a senior parliamentary member to chair our Korea-Vietnam Parliamentary Friendship Group.
We are in a very solid relationship, as our parliamentary leaders visit each other almost every year. For me, Việt Nam is the only Asian country that I have visited since taking office as the Speaker. During my visit to your nation last year, I was told that I was the first foreign parliamentary leader to visit Việt Nam since the COVID-19 outbreak.
I believe that we parliamentarians can openly exchange views on the topics that both governments may feel are difficult to talk about. We sometimes can pull our governments forward and even support what they do. In this sense, the role and commitment of the parliament is really critical. This is why we appointed a senior NA member of our party to serve as the chair of our Korea-Vietnam Parliamentary Friendship Group. I hope that the parliamentarians of our two nations will continue to build close cooperative relations down the road.
How can further promotion of efficiency and cooperation between the two countries develop?
As of now, around 8,000 Korean companies have entered the Vietnamese market, hiring over 1 million Vietnamese workers locally. Our nations have set a goal of expanding our trade volume to US$100 billion by 2023. To make this happen, the following two things should be done. First, we need to move people, I mean the required workforce, across our borders more freely. In other words, we need to ensure the free flow of workforce required for us to invest in and trade with each other. Second, we need to brace for unexpected factors to ensure stability in the global supply chains. Only a few months ago, one of our industries was hit hard because of the lack of a single industrial material. Korea and Việt Nam share one challenge in particular: how to expand and solidify our supply chains amid the US-China rivalry. I will discuss such issues during our upcoming meeting.
As you know well, Korea is home to some 200,000 Vietnamese people, while roughly 180,000 Koreans also live in Việt Nam. We have more than 60,000 Korean-Vietnamese married couples. So, I think that we will discuss how we can care for and support these couples.
I would also like to talk about one more thing. When I visited Việt Nam last year, Vietnamese leaders asked me to accept more Vietnamese under our Employment Permit System and raise the quota so that more Vietnamese can work in Korea. They also told me that their workforce could not enter Korea due to the COVID-19 pandemic, asking me to allow them to enter our nation. After coming back to Korea, I was able to raise the quota by a remarkable 70 per cent or so and took follow-up actions to let Vietnamese workers enter Korea first among other foreign workforces.
To strengthen the role of the parliament, the Vietnamese National Assembly has put the promotion of the digital economy, women, peace, security, and cooperation in a post-COVID world on its agenda. Do you think that these topics are needed for the Asia-Pacific region?
I believe that they are very timely topics and clearly demonstrate what keen eyes Vietnamese leaders have to see through the fundamental issues of our region. First, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to tackle two challenges: how to overcome this crisis and how to design our post-COVID future. Issues like digital transformation and women’s engagement are very important in this respect. Our nation is drafting our strategies to overcome this crisis with digital transformation and the Green New Deal, which means green growth. Given this, we can see that our two nations have much in common.
Women, security, and peace were stressed by the Vietnamese parliamentarians during the APPF meeting held in Hà Nội three years ago. Three years later, these issues have finally made it to the agenda. Including the four topics suggested by your country, we are going to announce a total of 13 resolutions. Among them, the topic of women, in particular, gender equality and women’s social participation, are truly meaningful because they were the common items proposed and adopted by our two nations.
Disaster hits the vulnerable first. Even in this COVID-19 pandemic, the least economically developed nations, women, non-regular workers, and other groups in need are hit first and hardest. When it comes to women, there are issues like how to help them recover from their job losses and career disruptions. In Korea, we have a subsidy program for companies that hire these women. I personally believe that gender equality is a very critical and timely issue when we gear up to overcome this crisis and design a post-COVID future by increasing their representation and engagement, creating jobs for them, helping them get back on their career path after career disruptions, and giving them more opportunities. VNS
NA Chairman to pay official visits to RoK, India
HÀ NỘI — Chairman of the National Assembly Vương Đình Huệ will lead a high-ranking delegation of the Vietnamese National Assembly on official visits to the Republic of Korea (RoK) and India from December 12-19.
The visits are at the invitation of Speaker of the National Assembly of the RoK Park Byeong-seug, Speaker of the Lok Sabha (House of Representatives) of India Om Birla, and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of India Venkaiah Naidu, the NA Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement issued on Friday. — VNS