President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in. (Photo: Reuters)

Hanoi (VNA) – President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in on November 20 called for greater efforts to further enhance the country’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"ASEAN is already the world's second-largest market for us after China," the President said in a weekly Cabinet meeting at his office in Seoul. It represents the region most frequently visited by Korean people and the first passage through which the Korean cultural wave, or Hallyu, spreads, he added.

Moon noted the country's trade with the 10-member ASEAN spiked 25 percent year-on-year in 2017 compared to the previous year. “Vietnam alone has a population of 100 million with an economic growth rate of 7 percent.”

He highlighted the need to work with the Asian neighbours. He said ASEAN, India and Australia have expressed their support for the New Southern Policy that seeks to promote peace and co-prosperity, so the RoK must take special interest and efforts in the relationship with those countries.

Under the New Southern Policy, Seoul seeks to boost the country's bilateral trade with ASEAN countries to more than 200 billion USD in 2020. Moon and the heads of the 10 ASEAN nations have also agreed to make concerted efforts to increase the number of visitors between the two sides to over 15 million by 2020.

Moon’s statements came after he made a four-day trip to Singapore last week for the 33rd ASEAN Summit.

Seoul plans to host a special RoK – ASEAN summit in 2019, which marks the 30th anniversary of relations between the two sides.

President Moon Jae-in ordered the government to immediately begin preparations for the summit by launching a pan-government committee for this work.

“It will not only be the first regional summit to be held in the RoK since the launch of our administration but also be an opportunity to further expand the countries' economic cooperation and people exchange," he said.

The RoK earned 82.32 billion USD from exports to ASEAN nations in the first ten months of 2018, an increase of 4.7 percent year on year, according to Yonhap news agency. Trade between the two sides stood at 132.1 billion USD over the period, and is likely to exceed 150 billion USD this year. 

Last year, 7.5 million Korean tourists, or one third of the total Koreans travelling abroad, visited the 10 ASEAN member countries. 

The RoK has sought stronger economic relations with ASEAN under Moon's "New Southern Policy" to reduce its heavy reliance on trade with the United States and China, and foster new growth drivers. –VNA