Officials and businesses from Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK) convened an economic forum in Hanoi on Oct. 21 to discuss new opportunities for cooperation and to share experiences.

Speaking at the opening of the forum, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Cao Viet Sinh said the Vietnam-RoK relations, over the past 17 years since the two countries set up their diplomatic ties, have made great strides forward in investment, trade and development assistance.

As to the critical role played by RoK businesses, Sinh said their investment has helped boost the development of many industries in Vietnam, particularly spearhead and supporting industries.

Sinh called upon the businesses to continue investing in Vietnam, focussing on information technology, farm produce processing, transport infrastructure, seaports, education and health care.

RoK Deputy Minister of Strategy and Finance Hur Kyung-wook said his country regards Vietnam as strategic partner and will accelerate its cooperation to help Vietnam develop into an industrialised nation.

In addition to providing consultancy on perfecting the country’s market economy, the RoK will also help Vietnam in the fields of science and technology, human resources development and education. The assistance will include building technical schools in five Vietnamese localities and improving its capacity in terms of human resources through exchanges and visits.

Highlighting Vietnam as a newly emerging economy that has untapped potential for development and its successful efforts to keep the economy stable throughout the global economic crisis, the RoK official suggested that Vietnam to intensify reform, improve the quality of human resources-- particularly experts and technicians--and upgrade infrastructure in order to ensure sustainable development.

Deputy Minister Hur also expressed his hope for a burst in the two countries’ relations, after the ASEAN-RoK free trade agreement takes effect later this year.

Taking the floor at the forum, visiting RoK President Lee Myung-bak said that in their meetings the two countries’ leaders shared their visions of the future.

According to the President, Vietnam not only has an interest in financial assistance but also prioritises learning from the RoK’s experiences in overcome difficulties and challenges in the past.

The President expressed his belief in Vietnam’s prospects and said the RoK wishes to accompany Vietnam along the road ahead.

Also on the day, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the Trade Promotion Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam and the RoK’s Importers’ Association (KOIMA) at a meeting between the two countries’ businesses.

Addressing the meeting, which saw the attendance of 20 KOIMA businesses and many Vietnamese ones, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Le Duong Quang said the RoK is one of the most important trade partners of Vietnam.

The two-way trade has been steadily increasing reaching a record 8.85 billion USD in 2008, a year-on-year increase of 34.4 percent.

Quang stressed that cooperation between the two countries’ businesses will help their economies to hold their ground despite the global recession. Thus, the new MoU is expected to create more opportunities for the two countries’ businesses.

KOIMA Chairman Kim Wan-hee said the visit to Vietnam by KOIMA businesses aimed to increase trade, mainly in the fields of minerals and energy.

In the afternoon of the same day, a Vietnam-RoK forum on financial policy was held to seek ways to strengthen sustainable development for Vietnam ’s economy./.