This study was conducted to analyze the background factors and achievements of the ASEM process over the past 25 years since its establishment and to draw policy implications for Korea.
After the Introduction, Chapter 2 reviewed, in a detailed manner, the background factors of and the roles assigned to the ASEM process. Especially, ASEM was identified as an inter-regional cooperation mechanism between the two continents – Asia and Europe – that was established in order to fill the ‘missing link’. The intention of European countries to intensify cooperative relationship with Asian countries that had been increasingly recognized as ‘the potential center of global economic growth’ was a mian background factor that led to the establishment of ASEM. Also crucial was the desire of Asian countries to diversify their diplomatic relationship and to cultivate the biggest internal market provided by the European integration process. In addition to its traditional role to foster and enhance the cooperative relationship between Asia and Europe, the ASEM process also contributed to strengthening the intra-regional cooperation within Asia by providing them with motivations to establish the ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit (EAS), which can be regarded as a very positive by-product.
Chapter 3 was fully devoted to the evaluation of ASEM cooperation. First of all, the study looked into the agenda items of twelve summit meetings held until October 2021 in order to identify the main direction of cooperation in the ASEM process. Also, the study thoroughly investigated the cooperation agenda discussed and the frequncy of ministerial meetings, and found out that the ASEM process has been well-balnaced between political and economic policy areas. As a result of qualitative evaluation of the ASEM process, the study brought into discussion the following five main weaknesses of the ASEM process, especially compared to other internaitonal cooperation bodies, such as the APEC process. (i) unclear long-term vision; (ii) very low degree of institutionalization with no physical secretariat; (iii) too much comprehensive cooperation agenda leading to a low degree of concentration and focus; (iv) non-binding characteristics leading to no meaningful commitment of members; and (v) low visibility of the whole process.
Chapter 4 examined the trends and characteristics of the ASEM enlargement through indicator analysis. The European Commission’s Joint Research Center created a sustainable connectivity indicator and analyzed the degree of connectivity between Europe and Asia by collecting basic data from ASEM member countries. As a result, it was confirmed that significant achievements were made between the two regions in terms of trade, investment, movement of people, institutional and political connectivity, and joint research between the Asian and European regions. However, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center’s Sustainability Connectivity Indicator is not only Europe-centered, but the data is collected at a specific point in time. In order to supplement weakness of the Sustainability Connectivity Indicator, we created a new governance indicator that shows the degree of connectivity between the three pillars of ASEM. New indicator clearly illustrates trends and characteristics within and between the two regions in the process of ASEM enlargement. Furthermore we examined changes in Korea’s status in the process of ASEM enlargement using the governance indicator. According to analysis results Korea showed a high growth rate far exceeding the average of ASEM member countries in all areas including the public sector, market, and civil society. And compared to the early days of ASEM, Korea’s relative standing of nowadays has risen significantly. In particular, the degree of improvement in areas such as pulic administration, market environment and welfare was remarkable.
Chapter 5 presents Korea’s strategies for the upcoming 25 years of ASEM based on Korea’s achievements within ASEM. The future strategies will be was proposed focusing on areas where Korea can demonstrate intellectual leadership within ASEM. Indicator studies have shown that within ASEM, Korea has set a best practice in the areas of market opening, social security and deregulation. In addition, the Asia-Europe education cooperation program is also a major area in which Korea can demonstrate its intellectual leadership in the future. Future strategies proposed by Korea, such as market opening, social security, deregulation and education, are expected to make a significant contribution to the process of overcoming the challenges ASEM member countries are facing in the post covid-19 era.