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Mekong Regional Development Cooperation with the Republic of Korea Economic reform, Economic cooperation

Author KIM Taeyoon, AN Donghwan, JI Seongtae, YOON Taeyeon, MAHASUWEERACHAI Phumsith, LEE Yongeun, KIM Bheomseok, and KIM Nari Series 세계지역전략연구 19-05 Language Korean Date 2019.12.31

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   Considering the meaning of Korea’s full participation in Mekong development, this study provides the current status and strategies of Mekong regional partners by reviewing the Mekong development strategies from Japan, China, and the United States. In this process, the multilateral cooperation through the Mekong Regional Cooperation Organizations was sought. The interviews with policy authorities and experts through on-site surveys suggest desirable directions and specific measures for cooperation between Korea and Mekong regional cooperation organizations. This study includes ① analysis of economic growth, trade and investment status by using statistical data of the Mekong countries, ② comparison with previous research results, and ③ interviews with experts, government officials, non-profit organizations in the Mekong region.
   Previous research includes the historical context of Mekong development, the strategic support in response to the expansion of communism with UN’s support in the 1950s, and discourse on the background and limitations of the cooperation in the Mekong region mainly from Thailand’s perspective. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program initiated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) created discussions on the political side of Japan, China, and India in the late 1990s. The CLMV countries’ accession to ASEAN and subsequent regional development gaps were the essential issue for the further development of the Mekong region.
   The Mekong River Committee (MRC) is one of the leading regional multilateral cooperation and serves as a primary platform for Mekong regional water resource development cooperation. Korea has little collaboration with MRC, but it is necessary to develop a cooperation strategy focusing on poverty reduction by considering a regional water resource management and development to take advantage of Korea’s water resources development and irrigation experiences through science and technology-based joint research.
   The Mekong Institute (MI) has education and training programs in the Mekong area, which has a significant advantage in establishing a local network. A strategy is needed to promote education programs using specific cooperation areas and link them to business forums. It is also essential to check the effectiveness of the Korea-Mekong Cooperation Fund and to set a better direction.
   Thailand’s Mekong Economic Cooperation (ACMECS) is looking forward to Korea’s involvement in funding and will use these resources to promote the development of infrastructure and energy in the country. In particular, it seeks to develop the road, railway, telecommunication, and energy sectors of the East-West Economic Corridor and the Southern Economic Corridor. Korea can consider triangular strategic cooperation with ACMECS.
   As ASEAN’s connectivity strategy has a great impact on the development of the Mekong region, Korea should devise a strategy to participate in projects that enhance linkage with the Mekong region by actively utilizing the six implementation strategies presented in the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC 2025). The government needs to establish a framework for Korean private companies and NGOs to make full use of the Korea-Mekong alliance. For example, policy research institutes such as Japan’s influential ASEAN Institute (ERIA) and China’s Influential Mekong Development Research Center (GCMS) can be referred to.
   Besides, ADB’s GMS program emphasizes the spatial strategy to operate the existing physical infrastructure so that the government and the private sector can consider participating in various areas such as city networks, industrial clusters, business partnerships, cross-border cooperation platforms, etc.
   Since 2009, Japan has promoted the Japan-Mekong Summit and expanded investments in infrastructure to strengthen its connectivity to support its companies’ entry into the Mekong area and to respond to climate change in the framework of ‘Green Mekong’. The positive image was solidified by increasing the sustainable use of resources. Japan’s Asian development strategy has established a think tank, ERIA, in 2006, which has a significant impact on ASEAN’s policy-making process, including the Mekong region.
   In 2009, the United States established the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) with the Mekong downstream nations through its ‘Return to Asia’ policy, and has been slow for a while, and recently strengthened the India-Pacific cooperation to highlight LMI’s activities to cope with China’s influence in the region. Emphasis is placed on a partnership with other counties such as Japan, Korea, Australia, etc.
   China is pursuing practical cooperation for the effective implementation of the “one-belt-one-road” policy through the 1st Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Summit in 2016 by responding to the US-led India-Pacific strategy. In 2016, the Global Mekong Research Center (GCMS), a policy research organization similar to the Japanese-led ERIA, was launched differently.
   ROK-Mekong cooperation means multilateral cooperation. The promotion of the 1st Korea-Mekong Summit in 2019 will be the government’s active support for such multilateral cooperation and development with ASEAN. However, until now, only the Mekong Institute (MI) has been carrying out the Korea-Mekong Cooperation Fund as a project. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a plan to utilize various Mekong regional cooperation bodies, and at the same time, to establish a mid- to long-term cooperation agenda to promote multilateral cooperation.
   Thailand has relatively little trade and investment with Korea in comparison to its geographical advantage and scale. Most of the trade is in industrial and some consumer goods such as steel, memory, petrochemical, machinery, electronic device parts, and cosmetics. As human exchanges continue to increase, on the other hand, cooperation activities have been active in the area of ​​human capacity.
   The annual trade with Vietnam is about $ 68 billion in 2018, making it the first trade partner among ASEAN countries. TV (OLEDs), LED displays, and memory semi-conductors used in mobile phones and digital cameras account for a large portion. Korea’s investment and human exchanges have increased rapidly.
   In Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, trade has generally been focused on clothing, sewing, construction equipment, and agri-food. Development cooperation projects focusing on primary industries and regional development, such as Myanmar’s natural resource development and mining investment, Laos rural community development project, and Cambodia’s construction industry, are in progress. The ROK introduced a new employment permit system in Laos in 2018.
   Vietnam can be a major partner in the global value chain focusing on mobile phones and electronic products. In Thailand, there is a high possibility of cooperation in convergence and innovative sectors such as policy 4.0, ICT, and creative economy. In Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, there is a continual increase in human exchanges, so that is necessary to focus on improving the quality of human capacity by linking with higher education.
   Overall, it is vital to contribute to the development of Mekong by sharing Korea’s experiences in agricultural and rural development. Identifying potential projects that will help build a peaceful economy on the Korean peninsula, reflecting the experiences of the economic and social development of transitional countries are important in the near future. When establishing the Regional Partnership Strategy (RPS), It is necessary to think strategically, such as avoid the overlapping projects with each country and use the Mekong Regional Cooperation, but also cooperate with other donors or triangular cooperation with the Mekong country.
   This study concludes by suggesting the direction and promotion strategies of the long-term win-win cooperation of Korea-Mekong cooperation and three win-win measures. The direction of cooperation should contribute to narrowing the development gap of ASEAN and to verifying the effectiveness of Korea’s new southern policy. In other words, after understanding the development demand of the Mekong region and the capacity for win-win cooperation in Korea, the Korea-Mekong Summit will continue to create conditions to harmonize the development demand of the region with our supply capacity. When looking at the strategies for cooperation in the short, medium, and long term, it is important to start a full-fledged collaboration by establishing a branding strategy for the Korea-Mekong Summit Cooperation and establishing various ways that can be linked with the Mekong Regional Partners. Based on this, it is desirable to seek strategic linkages in major countries such as the United States, Japan, and China, and at the same time, Korea’s Mekong cooperation should meet ASEAN’s need to bridge the development gap, leading to common prosperity. In the medium to long term, it should lead to raising Korea’s influential in Asia and strengthening the capacity of multilateral development cooperation with the private sectors.
   As a concrete plan for win-win cooperation with the Mekong region, it is proposed to have three win-win cooperation platforms. First, we suggest the “Grow Mekong” platform, which is a platform for policy research and pilot projects based on science and technology. It has a framework for continuously developing joint research and policies such as economics, society, culture, and science and technology in the Mekong area and verifying its effectiveness as a pilot project. In the short term, Korean and Mekong regional experts will jointly conduct long-term research in each sector, contributing to the agenda of the Korea-Mekong Summit. In the medium and long term, scientific and objective research and the rigorous verification of its effectiveness contribute to the establishment of policies necessary for Mekong development. You can refer to Australia’s Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). In terms of verifying the effectiveness of the project, Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer, who won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, can be considered.
   Second, we propose the term “Finance and Invest the Mekong”, a platform for financial and investment cooperation, which is a government-level support platform that can facilitate the activities of SMEs seeking to enter the Mekong region. This platform should allow for a preliminary survey of the infrastructure in the Mekong and the potential for investment. It should facilitate investment in appropriate technology developed locally linked with various start-up support funds in Korea. The primary product produced in the Mekong region may be considered as a way to be connected to exports by commercializing Korean companies with technical support (e.g., packaging, processing, branding, etc.). In the financial investment sector, understanding of the system and mutual cooperation are important such as Japan’s Global Financial Cooperation Center, which supports capacity building for financial officials in Mekong region.
   Third, we also propose a platform for economic cooperation, the “Mekong-Korea Peace Economy”. In the short term, it is important to find ways to contribute to the development of Mekong and to use this result to link the cooperation platform where Mekong, South Korea, and North Korea might jointly participate. For example, by incorporating North Korea into global value chains of major industries such as agri-food, clothing and sewing industries, and electronics industries, it can serve as an opportunity to lay the foundation for a peaceful economy in Asia.
   Based on this basic cooperation platform, we propose the following directions for overall cooperation with the Mekong Regional Partners. We look forward to enhancing Korea’s status in Asia by contributing to reducing the regional development gap and achieving the UN’s SDGs by establishing and implementing roadmaps and specific implementation strategies with Mekong regional partners.
   First of all, the MRC’s water resource cooperation platform and Korea’s ICT and big data should be considered. If scientific research and data on local topography and water resources are accumulated in both society, the private sectors’ activities will be increased. The Mekong Institute (MI) should be used to strengthen the human network by expanding exchanges with Korea experts through training programs and business forums in areas that enhance food safety and processing technology for various agricultural products. A strategy should be devised to maximize the leverage of triangular cooperation through ACMECS, Thailand’s Mekong Economic Cooperation. For example, the government will be able to engage in people-centered human exchange and cultural funds in the ACMECS project, while at the same time linking our private companies to work in the Mekong region. It is also necessary to establish a strategy to actively participate in ASEAN’s connectivity and a roadmap that can be linked to the spatial strategy in    ADB’s GMS program. For example, building a city network, activating industrial clusters, fostering cross-border cooperation, and solidifying strategic business partnerships could contribute to the promotion of established economic corridors.

국문요약 


제1장 서론
1. 연구 배경 및 목적
2. 연구의 구성과 내용 및 범위
3. 선행연구 검토 및 차별성
4. 본 연구의 수행 방법


제2장 메콩 개발과 지역 협력체 현황 및 시사점
1. 메콩 개발의 의의
2. 메콩의 주요 지역 협력체 현황
3. 시사점


제3장 역외 국가의 협력 현황과 전략 및 시사점
1. 일본의 메콩 지역 참여전략
2. 중국의 메콩 지역 참여전략
3. 미국의 메콩 지역 참여전략
4. 비교 및 시사점


제4장 한국의 메콩 지역 협력 현황과 시사점
1. 한-메콩 다자 간 협력 현황
2. 한국의 메콩 지역 개별 국가의 협력 현황
3. 시사점


제5장 한국과 메콩 지역의 중장기 상생전략
1. 중장기 상생협력의 방향과 전략
2. 메콩 지역과의 상생협력 방안


제6장 요약 및 결론


참고문헌


부록


Executive Summary

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