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The ASEAN Community in the Post COVID-19 era: Challenges and Policy Implications Economic cooperation, International politics

Author Meeryung La, Ina Choi, Jaewan Cheong, Mingeum Shin, and Hyung Jong Kim Series 21-04 Language Korean Date 2021.12.30

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   This report evaluates the performance of the three pillars of the ASEAN community―the Political-Security, Economic, and SocioCultural pillars―at the halfway point of the blueprint to build the ASEAN Community by 2025. The paper also analyzes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ASEAN Community and comprehensively addresses the existing and newly encountered challenges of ASEAN in the COVID-19 era. Based on these analyses, we derive policy recommendations for cooperation between ASEAN and Korea to support recovery from COVID-19 and successful progress of the ASEAN Community.
   ASEAN established the ASEAN Community in 2015 and adopted the three blueprints set out in the strategic measures to build Socio-Cultural, Political-Security, and Economic communities by 2025. Chapter 2 introduces the ASEAN Community’s goals and work plans guided by APSC, AEC, and ASCC blueprints, and examined the implementation mechanism to pursue the various measures. We also review the contents and significance of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), which is a COVID-19 exit strategy at the ASEAN level, and present our forecasts on the future of the ASEAN Community after COVID-19.
   In Chapter 3, this paper evaluates the progress of ASEAN economic integration and examined environmental changes caused by COVID-19, and the challenges faced by ASEAN subsequently. According to the results of this study, AEC’s goal of establishing a “highly integrated and cohesive economy” has been successfully implemented in accordance with its work plan, but the actual economic performance appear to fall short of expectations. Therefore, we identify the factors that hinder ASEAN's economic integration and further present ASEAN's challenges to solve them.
   Chapter 4 analyzes the performance of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) and examines the prospects of the APSC after COVID-19. First, we reviewed the main contents of the APSC Mid-term Review Report released by the ASEAN Secretariat, and analyzed the fundamental limitations of the APSC blueprint 2025. Then we analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on the building of APSC. Unlike the AEC and ASCC, it is difficult to say that COVID-19 directly affected the APSC’s progress and accomplishments. Nevertheless, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in accelerating the existing challenges faced by the APSC, including the U.S.-China competition and the regression of democracy in ASEAN member states. In this respect, this chapter analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on the political and security environment in Southeast Asia and the challenges accordingly.
   In Chapter 5, this study analyzes the performance of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) and examined the pending issues after COVID-19. ASCC includes a wide range of cooperation areas, but there is no implementation mechanism that encompasses them;
furthermore it is difficult to secure its own driving force. The field of the ASCC tends to be recognized as a national-level issue intrinsically, which acts to limit the implementation of cooperative projects at the regional level. This study examined the limitations of ASCC described above and analyzed the challenges faced by the ASCC amidst COVID-19.
Finally, Chapter 6 provided policy directions for cooperation between ASEAN and Korea, and suggested measures that contribute to the progress of the AEC, APSC, and ASCC in the post-COVID-19 era.

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