SEOUL: It is good that Singapore and South Korea are looking beyond traditional areas of cooperation in trade and investment, and broadening bilateral cooperation to new areas, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (Nov 23).
These areas include cybersecurity, fintech and advanced manufacturing, he said at a lunch hosted by South Korean president Moon Jae-in at the Blue House.
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“Today, Korea is not only one of Asia’s economic powerhouses, but also a global leader in industrial and digital innovation,” said Mr Lee who is in South Korea for a bilateral visit and to attend the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit.
He cited South Korea topping the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the sixth consecutive year. The country is also a pioneer in 5G technology and the Internet of Things, and also forging ahead in smart city development, he added.
Mr Moon in turn said: "I take my hats off to the Prime Minister who is steering Singapore towards the path of development through his harmonious, inclusive and innovative leadership."
Both leaders welcomed the growing collaboration between both countries in areas such as smart cities, medical and biotechnology, smart grids, intellectual property, and cybersecurity, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Saturday.
They also welcomed the further enhancement of security cooperation between both countries through the upcoming conclusion of an information exchange agreement in chemical biological defence, the MFA said.
MFA said that Mr Lee also reaffirmed Singapore’s commitment to working closely with South Korea and the rest of the international community to achieve a peaceful, stable and denuclearised Korean Peninsula.
READ: North Korea breaks off nuclear talks with US in Sweden
He also expressed his appreciation of the initiatives by the South Korean government, including President Moon’s personal efforts to promote dialogue with North Korea.
OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATION
In opening remarks earlier at the start of his visit, Mr Lee said that the countries enjoy warm bilateral relations.
The visit was an opportunity to discuss how the two countries can expand their cooperation in several areas and how to improve the overall policy infrastructure for their cooperation, he said. He gave the example of upgrading the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement signed in 2005.
In 2018, total trade with South Korea amounted to S$40.3 billion. It accounted for 3 per cent of Singapore’s total trade with the world in 2018, making it Singapore’s 9th largest trading partner.
According to South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE), Singapore was the 6th largest investor in South Korea in 2018 with Foreign Direct Investment of US$1.48 billion.
Mr Lee also thanked Mr Moon for hosting the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit which will be held next week and “steadfastly” implementing his “New Southern Policy”, which aims to cultivate relations with ASEAN and India as key partners. It "fits in very closely" with ASEAN’s desire to deepen and enhance its Strategic Partnership with the South Korea, he said.
TOURISM AND FOOD
Beyond business, people-to-people relations between the two sides are also growing, Mr Lee said.
Over the last 10 years, bilateral tourism figures have more than doubled, to 860,000 last year, he said.
Many Korean tourists visit the Merlion Park at Marina Bay, and many Singapore tourists are attracted by Korean culture - they want to see the places where Korean dramas are filmed, and want to watch their K-Pop idols perform at concerts here, he said.
“Ho Ching and I were also part of the statistics, because we came here on holiday in 2015,” he said, drawing laughter from guests at the lunch.
Mr Lee said he visited Seoul, and other scenic places such as the fishing town of Jukbian and the historic city of Gyeongju with his wife.
Korean food is another major draw that has become “very much” a part of Singapore’s multicultural food scene, he said, adding that he is glad that some well-known Singaporean restaurants have brought Singapore cuisine, such as chilli crab and kaya toast, to Seoul.
“I am confident that with the expansion of our bilateral Air Services Agreement, many more Singaporeans will be visiting ROK, and vice versa,” he said.
Mr Lee added that he hopes to visit the Gyeongui Line Forest Park, and Seoullo 7017, to see how South Korea has creatively reclaimed and beautified city spaces. Singapore is similarly reclaiming, redesigning and re-purposing urban space to improve it and keep it up to date while preserving cultural heritage and shared memories, he said.
Mr Lee looked forward to the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Republic of Korea 2020.
“With the support of President Moon and our friends in the Republic of Korea, I am confident that our bilateral ties will rise to new heights,” he said.