Korea Herald’s interview with National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue

(VOVWORLD) - National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue is currently on an official visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the invitation of Speaker of the Korean National Assembly Park Byeong-seug. On this occasion, Mr. Hue granted an interview to the Korea Herald, the ROK’s largest English-language daily, on relations between Vietnam and the ROK.
Korea Herald’s interview with National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue  - ảnh 1Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.

How do you assess the Vietnam-Korea relations so far? The world is seeing Vietnam as a rising middle power. Korea is also regarded by many as a "middle power". Vietnam and Korea upgraded bilateral relations from a "dialogue partnership" to "strategic partnership". What do you think about the future of Vietnam-Korea relations in the years to come?

I always have great affection for the Republic of Korea (RoK) and its people. My last visit to this beautiful and hospitable country was in 2019, in my former capacity as Deputy Prime Minister. During that visit, I joined Excellency Hong Nam-ki, Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Economy and Finance, in co-chairing the first Viet Nam - ROK Economic Dialogue at the Deputy Prime Minister-level. This time, I am very delighted to return to the ROK, in my new capacity as President of the National Assembly of Viet Nam.

As you may be well aware, Viet Nam is upholding the consistent foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation, development, and multilateralization and diversification of its relations. Viet Nam is striving to be a friend, a reliable partner, and an active and responsible member of the international community. Bearing this in mind, Viet Nam always attaches importance and looks forward to further strengthening the ties with the ROK, especially when such relationship is well rooted in our time-tested history. Ly Long Tuong (or Lee Yong-sang), then 80 years of age, still joined the Ly royal family and the people of Goryeo to twice fend off the invaders from the Mongol Empire. This gesture bears vivid testament to the close bond between our two countries.

After nearly 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, the Viet Nam - ROK ties have witnessed remarkable developments. Such impressive progress is very rare in any bilateral relationship between countries around the world. Such bond has been growing ever stronger since the establishment of the Viet Nam - ROK Strategic Cooperative Partnership in 2009. The ROK is Viet Nam's top partner in numerous fields, while Viet Nam is the ROK's key partner in its New Southern Policy.

Regarding political relations, the Viet Nam – ROK Strategic Cooperative Partnership has becoming increasingly effective and substantive. The political trust between the two sides has been constantly strengthened through regular visits and contacts between high-level leaders and leaders of the two countries’ ministries, agencies and localities at all levels under various formats, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among which, the most recent are the visit to Viet Nam by Honorable Park Byeong Seug, Speaker of the National Assembly of the ROK in November 2020, and other meetings and contacts within the framework of international forums. In particular, the two sides are working together to conduct activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Viet Nam – ROK diplomatic relations, and elevate the current Strategic Cooperative Partnership to new heights.

Economic cooperation has always been a highlight and a key pillar in the two countries’ cooperation. The two sides have established and joined many bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms. The Viet Nam - ROK Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA) which took effect from December 2015 has laid foundation for promoting stronger and more effective economic, trade and investment cooperation. The ROK is currently the largest FDI investor in Viet Nam with over 9,100 projects and total registered capital of 72.3 billion USD, and the second largest trade partner with two-way trade turnover in 2020 reaching 65 billion USD. The ROK is also Viet Nam's second largest ODA donor, with 1.5 billion USD grant committed in the 2016-2020 period alone. The two countries are also participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the ROK is also considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of which Viet Nam is also a member. 

Culture, tourism and people-to-people exchange are lively areas of cooperation, and help bolster mutual understanding and lay a solid groundwork for deeper and broader collaboration between the two countries. “The Korean Wave”, through cultural, arts, film and culinary programs, has become more popular in Viet Nam. Vietnamese culture and food has also been well-known and well-loved in the ROK. Thanks to historical and cultural similarities, Viet Nam is an attractive destination for Korean tourists, with more than 4.3 million visits in 2019. More than 500,000 Vietnamese tourists also visited the ROK in the same year. Every month, there are about 2,000 flights connecting various localities between the two countries. Without the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps Viet Nam would have received 6 million visits from Korean tourists last year. More than 200,000 nationals of each country are currently residing, studying and working in the other. This number includes more than 65,000 Vietnamese – Korean multicultural families, who are a bridge of friendship that bring our two peoples closer to each other.

Recently, although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable hardships, the cooperation between the two countries could still able to maintain its growth trajectory. It is during times of great need that the mutual assistance and the Strategic Partnership between the countries became even more evident. Most remarkably, the ROK was among the first countries to provide assistance to Viet Nam in its fight against COVID-19, including medical supplies and vaccine doses. Viet Nam has tried its utmost to accommodate the entry of tens of thousands of Korean experts and managers, and secured the economic operation and prevented supply chain disruptions for Korean investors in Viet Nam. The two sides are making every effort to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity for collaboration in new areas, especially health and digital technology cooperation.  

It can be said that over the last 30 years, the Viet Nam – ROK relationship is at its most flourishing since the establishment of diplomatic relations. My visit to the ROK will open up a new chapter in the development of cooperation between our two countries. I am confident that our cooperation will garner more successes, thanks to the solid foundations and achievements in our relations in nearly 30 years, geographical proximity, historical and cultural similarities, mutually reinforcing interests in development cooperation, our respective Leaders’ attention, and the great efforts of our peoples and business communities.

How has the COVID-19 affected the Viet Nam-ROK cooperation?

In my opinion, COVID-19 is a litmus test, one at the global scale. It will not only put the individual to the test, but also the leadership and capacity to respond to the crisis of each country. I am quite impressed by what Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari said, and I quote “This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come”. What matters is not how severely the pandemic affects us, but how together we address this issue. 

It is undeniable that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has posed numerous challenges to the regional and international community, including Viet Nam and the ROK. Many exchange and cooperation activities between the two sides have been cancelled or postponed. Economic cooperation, people-to-people exchange and many other areas have been severely impacted. However, given the resolve of the high-level leaderships of the two sides, the Viet Nam - RoK cooperation continues to be sustained, particularly high-level and all-level exchanges. Such activities were conducted under diverse flexible formats both physically and virtually to be in line with the new context.

Given the complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing difficulties and attracting investment from foreign investors, particularly the Korean ones, remain the top priority of Viet Nam, including of the National Assembly. Viet Nam has created all favorable conditions to assist foreign experts and managers, including Korean ones, in sustaining their economic operation in Viet Nam. This includes prioritizing vaccination for workers in Korean industrial parks and factories, ensuring pandemic containment measures, preventing the supply chain disruption of Korean businesses, providing tax incentives and promptly removing emerging obstacles and difficulties. The Vietnamese high-level leaders are involved directly in such endeavors. H.E President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and H.E. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh participated in-person in the roundtables with Korean businesses.

How do you think the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would be useful to Korea-Vietnam bilateral relations?

In addition to bilateral cooperation mechanisms, within the framework of the RCEP, Viet Nam and the ROK are important partners and have finished the ratification procedures for the Agreement to come into force at the beginning of 2022. This is an important groundwork for Viet Nam and the ROK to strengthen our bilateral cooperation, consolidate our  positions as each other’s leading trade and investment partner, and expand our Strategic Partnership. 

With the implementation of preferential tariffs (the elimination of at least 92% of import tariff lines between Viet Nam and Korea by 2040), harmonization of commitments and standard, and reduction of export procedures, the Agreement will create favorable conditions for the business communities of both countries to strengthen investment and business cooperation. We also hope that through the RCEP, Vietnamese exports can have greater access to the ROK’s market, thus increasing imports, and encouraging high-quality investments from the ROK to Viet Nam.