Malaysia-South Korea Bilateral Relations Poised For Stronger Footing


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 (Bernama) -- For many Malaysians in the 70s and 80s, South Korea was a household name, largely due to its footballl team, which used to meet Malaysia on many occasions.

Today, South Korea is still a household name in Malaysia but for many other reasons, as well, ranging from football to its consumer goods, car and equipment brands, and the Korean dramas and films.

Mention must be made of the Look East Policy, introduced by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the 80s, which had also contributed to the enhancement and strengthening of the bilateral ties.

Fifty years since establishing diplomatic ties in 1960, Malaysia-South Korea bilateral relations are entering a new stage of enhanced partnership, with positive and constructive developments on many sides.

Kuala Lumpur and Seoul enjoy close cooperation and ties, in many areas such as trade and investment, science and technology, higher education, as well as tourism.

One thing to note is that both countries continue to enjoy strong economic ties while two-way tourism and people-to-people ties were also growing.

On the political side, Malaysia and South Korea witnessed high-level visits by leaders of the two countries for many decades, as well as at ministerial level.

Seven Malaysian cabinet ministers and 21 Malaysian members of parliament visited South Korea this year. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also visited the country this year.

On the other side, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is here for a two-day visit.

Last year, about 230,000 South Korean tourists visited Malaysia while 80,000 Malaysians visited South Korea.

On the economic front over the past 10 years, the annual growth rate of bilateral trade volume between Malaysia and Korea exceeded 10 per cent.

Bilateral trade volume reached US$11.9 billion last year.

In fact, the long-standing economic ties between the two countries formed a substantial part of the strong foundation of Malaysia-South Korea relations.

Today, South Korea is the seventh largest exporter to Malaysia and Korea is Malaysia's seventh largest importer. Malaysia is South Korea's 12th largest investment destination.

Despite this, there still exists strong potential for cooperation to explore in new promising areas such as nuclear engineering, robotics, green technology, nano technology, bio-technology and environmental engineering.

Cultural cooperation has also grown considerably, which in turn, contributes to greater understanding between the peoples and it must be noted that cultural events were held in the two countries in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties this year.

At today's summit meeting, the South Korean president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak agreed to further enhance Malaysia-Korea defence cooperation.

In the field of education, they agreed to promote collaboration between the relevant ministries.

On the international fora, both countries have close cooperation in various issues such as nuclear security, climate change and counter terrorism.

And on the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula, Malaysia has consistently been against North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and continues to support the Six Party Talks to solve the matter.

Malaysia was in solidarity with the South Korean people when it condemned Pyongyang's recent missile attack on the Yeonpyeong island.

With this two-day state visit by the South Korean leader, Malaysia-South Korea bilateral relations is poised for more growth and further expansion on numerous fronts and on a stronger footing, too.