The UP Korea Research Center (UP KRC), in partnership with the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation Inc. (APPPFI), held a joint public forum entitled “Significance of Korea’s New Southern Policy for the Philippines and ASEAN” on July 22, 2019 at Microtel by Wyndam in Quezon City. The forum aimed to analyze the significance of New Southern Policy to the Philippines and ASEAN in the field of defense, security, and economy; to discuss how to strengthen Philippines-Korea defense and security partnership within the framework of New Southern Policy; and to forge an institutional partnership between Philippine-based institutions and Korean think tanks.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Aldrin Lee (UP KRC OIC-Director) gave a brief background on the UP KRC and noted that this was the first public forum held on the New Southern Policy (NSP).
The guest speaker, Dr. Jaehyon Lee (Asian Institute of Policy Studies) gave a talk entitled “New Southern Policy and ASEAN-Korea Strategic and Security Cooperation,” which focused on the NSP and Peace Cooperation, and the Potential and Limits of Strategic Cooperation. The NSP aims to include ASEAN among South Korea (ROK)’s major partners, along with Japan, China, USA, and Russia. It is also seen to secure national security by strengthening relations with neighboring countries (strategic networks), especially with a “revisionist China” and a “unilateral isolationist US” under the Trump administration. The NSP, according to Dr. Lee, serves as ROK fulfilling their role as a middle power and contributing to international community as a middle power.
A talk on the “PH-ROK Defense Cooperation: Prospects and Challenges” was given by Capt. Dianne Despi (Armed Forces of the Philippines), which covered the milestones, shared security environment, three frameworks of cooperation, and current engagements between the Philippines and ROK. Capt. Despi also noted that the NSP is welcome in the Philippines as this diversifies the partnerships the country has in terms of defense cooperation and may prove to be helpful and important in conducting strategic assessments. Challenges in the defense cooperation were also given, and these include language barrier, gap in technology development, and a priority mismatch between the Philippines and ROK.
Lastly, Prof. Ser Percival Peña-Reyes (Ateneo de Manila University) lectured on the “Trade Integration and Socioeconomic Disparities Among ASEAN States.” Macroeconomic, Development, and Trade Integration Data of ROK, G7, and ASEAN were presented. Data revealed that there is a disparity in economic performance within ASEAN and ASEAN is net importing vis-à-vis the world. The performance indicators set by the ASEAN have yet to reflect economic cooperation within the region, and ROK may act as a catalyst so ASEAN countries could trade within the region. Focusing on the Philippines, Prof. Peña-Reyes comments that Mindanao as a food basket can still be utilized to improve the country’s economy and its trade relations with Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia, and that the Philippines needs to shift from consumption to investments in terms of having the most contribution to the country’s GDP.
Prof. Raisa Lumampao (UP Department of Political Science) and Dr. Ricardo Barcelona (Imperial College Business School, London) served as reactors. Prof. Lumampao stated that the NSP shows both ROK’s desire to expand its relations and its strategic foreign policy. ROK, therefore, needs to understand ASEAN states more deeply and to know how to utilize middle and small powers. The NSP, she noted, will have a long-lasting effect if it strengthens maritime security, especially with the Philippines. Dr. Barcelona discussed choosing between trade and security is a false dichotomy, as one cannot exist without the other. He also states that we should not aspire for equality among ASEAN states but rather for the expansion of access to prosperity; and that conditions where opportunities must be enhanced should be created.
An open forum was held to entertain questions from the attendees, and afterwards, Prof. Herman Kraft (APPPFI) gave the closing remarks.
The author is participating in 2019 Korea Foundation Public Diplomacy Camp from August 17 to 23, 2019 in Korea.