The Conference on Strengthening the Korea–ASEAN Relationship, held on 15 September 2005 in Singapore, had great implications for both Korea and Singapore for two reasons.
Firstly, the year 2005 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During the “Korea Festival”, various events were held to celebrate our steadily maturing and prospering relationship. Through the years’ many dialogues, both Korea and the ASEAN states have augmented their friendship and co-operative efforts.
Secondly, our two countries have successfully concluded the free trade agreement (FTA) and brought it into effect in 2005. Mr Kesavapany was the architect who made this agreement possible. The FTA between Korea and Singapore is the first of its kind for Southeast Asia–Korea. Given the history of friendly co-operation between Korea and Singapore, I am very much convinced that the FTA will lead to the mutual prosperity of both countries. Furthermore, I have great hopes this FTA will become the basic framework for all of Korea's future FTAs with its Asian neighbours.
For the past thirty years, Korea and Singapore have steadily fostered friendly and co-operative relations in a many fields. Unfortunately, our scholars and experts have as yet not had the opportunity to exchange ideas. As this exchange is quite overdue, the Korea Foundation should be applauded for its endeavour in this initiative. Due to the effort of the Korea Foundation in facilitating scholarly exchanges between Korea and Singapore, both states are able to better engage each other. Through in-depth dialogues such as the Korea–Singapore forum and many others like it, these two states have come to be bound by an expanded scope of common understanding and co-operation. Among the ASEAN countries, Singapore is now Korea's largest trading partner. Many South Korean businesses are benefiting from the country's trade with Singapore, as the latter has become a springboard for South Korean businesses to launch their produce into the emerging ASEAN market.