By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik, VC Choe Nam-suk, Editor Kevin Lee, Reporter Jang Ji-sun
Ambassador Nguyen Vu Tung of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam in Seoul said, “The two friendly countries discussed and agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership,’ which is a new framework that will serve the goal to bring the cooperative relations between the two countries to a higher level.”
It appears that the two countries are now in good hands, especially at this time when Korea is led by President Yoon Suk-yeol who is very international cooperation-friendly.
Details of the interview follow:
Question: Please introduce the major topics discussed and agreed upon during the bilateral summit meeting between Presidents of the two countries.
Answer: Presidents of the two countries discussed and agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” This is a new framework that will serve the goal to bring the cooperative relations between the two countries to a higher level. The visit (being the first state visit to Korea by a foreign leader after President Yoon took office in May 2022) and the interactions between the two leaders (during the summit and two private meetings) showed their personal interests in cultivating the bilateral relationship through high-level exchanges. By now, all the top Vietnamese leaders have talked and/or met with their counterparts. These high-level interactions have built not only personal acquaintances but more importantly, trust between them, which is an important foundation for bilateral relations to grow.
The introduction of the “comprehensive strategic partnership” (the framework that Vietnam had established only with Russia, India and China before Korea) is a great milestone in our bilateral relations. It recognizes big achievements in the cooperative relations between the two countries over the last 30 years. It also reflects the political will and long-term vision of the two countries’ leaders about the future of the relationship. And of equal importance, it identifies the fields, priorities, and directions for the cooperation between the two countries in the future.
In addition, at the end of the summit, the two sides introduced the Joint Statement, announcing the specific plans and areas of cooperation between the two countries in the coming years. The Joint Statement creates new opportunities for bilateral relations to develop in political, diplomatic, defense, economic and people-to-people relations, thus reflecting the comprehensive and strategic nature of the relationship.
Last but not least, the two Presidents shared their agreements on the assessments of the regional and global issues. Based on this, the two sides will find new areas for cooperation in the multilateral arrangements, including ASEAN and the United Nations, which will surely elevate our bilateral relations to the international levels to better serve our national interests as well as to strive for regional and global peace, stability, and prosperity and of equal importance, bring our bilateral relations in line with the Indo-Pacific Strategy of President Yoon’s government and the Foreign policy of Viet Nam adopted by the Party Congress in 2021.
Q: Please introduce the brief history of diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries for the past 30 years.
A: 1992: A joint statement was signed by the foreign ministers of Vietnam and Korea in Hanoi on Dec. 22, 1992 to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. Missions at ambassadorial-level were opened in each country. Korea opened its embassy in Hanoi in December 22, 1992, and Vietnam in Seoul in March 1993. In November 1993, Korea opened a consulate general in Ho Chi Minh city.
2001: The two countries agreed to announce the framework of “comprehensive partnership for the 21st century”, on the occasion of a visit by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong to Seoul at the invitation of Korea’s President Kim Dae-jung in August 2001. It was the first state visit to Korea by a Vietnamese president since 1992.
2009: The two countries elevated their relations to “strategic cooperative partnership,” on the occasion of a visit by Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Hanoi at the invitation of Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet in Hanoi on Oct. 21, 2009. The two agreed to establish regular dialogues between their defense and foreign ministries.
2015: The free trade agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and Korea went into effect in December 2015, one year after negotiations ended with a signing ceremony in Busan and after the Korea-ASEAN FTA coming into effect in 2007.
2022: Vietnam and Korea elevated their relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during the visit to Korea by the President of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc in December to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations. Earlier in 2022, more than 20 delegations visited Korea, including visits by Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son in February, Permanent member of the Vietnamese Party Central Committee’s Secretariat Vo Van Thuong in August. Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin visited Vietnam in October.
Q: Please introduce the latest developments in Viet Nam.
A: Since the beginning of 2022, despite the rapid, complicated and unpredictable developments in the world situation with greater economic, political and social implications, Viet Nam's socio-economic development continues to rebound. The COVID-19 pandemic and inflation have been under control; the macro-economic indicators have remained stable, foreign trade turnover reached more than 673 billion USD, a 14% increase as compared to 2021, and trade surplus stood at 10,6 billion USD as of late November.
For the first 11 months of 2022, about 194,700 enterprises have been registered and resumed operation, an increase of 33.2% over the same period last year. The total registered FDI capital as of November 20, 2022 reached nearly 22.46 billion USD. Viet Nam welcomed more than 2.95 million foreign tourists - a 21.1 times increase compared to the same period in 2021.
Many international organizations are positive in their assessment of Viet Nam socio-economic situation and optimistic about Viet Nam’s 2022 and 2023 growth outlook that Viet Nam's GDP growth in 2022 could reach 7.5-8.2%. Nikkei Asia rated Viet Nam as Southeast Asia’s leading country in terms of post- covid recovery.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: According to Viet Nam’s General Department of Customs, in the first 10 months of 2022, the bilateral trade turnover was estimated at 74.1 billion USD, an increase of 17.5% over the same period in 2021. Specifically, exports to South Korea reached 20.7 billion USD and imports from South Korea reached 53.4 billion USD, a 15.5 and 18.3% increase over the previous year respectively.
In terms of exports, in the first 9 months of 2022, Viet Nam's processed and manufactured products maintained their growth at 14%, reaching 15.3 billion USD; agricultural and aquatic products saw a major increase of 25.5%, reaching 1.1 billion USD; construction materials increased by 46%, worth of 804 million USD while minerals exports jumped to 141.7 million USD, a 293% increase.
In terms of imports, processed and manufactured goods reached 41.8 billion USD, a 15% increase; agricultural and aquatic products increased by 18.8%, worth of 381.2 million USD; construction materials increased by 3.4%, reaching 1.9 billion USD while energy products increased by 204%, reaching 3 billion USD.
It is expected that the 2022 bilateral trade turnover will continue to record a double-digit growth. However, it is forecast that the world economy in the first half of 2023 as well as that of Viet Nam and South Korea will experience economic slowdown or even short-term recession complicated by lingering high inflation, major powers’ geopolitical competition, Russia-Ukraine conflicts. These factors may negatively affect the growth of trade between Viet Nam and South Korea.
In a longer term, Viet Nam-Korea trade will record high growth again due to the resilience and complementarity of our two economies.
Q. What are the areas in Your Excellency’s country where Your Excellency might want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas in Korea where the businessmen of your country are desired to invest?
A: South Korea is currently Viet Nam’s largest FDI partner, with more than 80 billion USD of total registered accumulated capital and about 9,500 on-going investment projects. South Korean enterprises are engaged in all sectors of Viet Nam's economy, from manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, real estate to finance and banking, insurance, logistics, distribution, M&A investment, startups etc. Most big South Korean corporations have been expanding their investment in Viet Nam. With a golden population structure of 100 million people, and fast-growing middle class, Viet Nam is considered as not only a production base but also an expanding domestic market and a spring board to reach further market through the country’s network of FTAs. In the coming time, in addition to investment in the traditional manufacturing industry, logistics, clean energy, transport infrastructure development, new area in digital transformation, finance and banking, biomedical, pharmaceutical sectors, etc. will be of great interest for Korean business communities.
Viet Nam aims to become a developed and high-income country by 2045, commits to net zero emissions by 2050, and has introduced a Strategy for Attracting Foreign Investment with a vision to 2030. Accordingly, Viet Nam encourages FDI enterprises in general and those from South Korea in particular to invest in high-tech sector that would create spill – over effects and turn Viet Nam into an important and sustainable link in the global value chain, less dependent on resource, energy while providing high value-added and high investment rate of return.
Specifically, a number of strategic areas such as semiconductors, bio medical, clean energy, environment, smart cities, strategic transport infrastructure, ICT, digital transformation, startups, smart farming, etc., will have the potential to promote the cooperation between Vietnamese and Korean enterprises which would hopefully help Vietnamese enterprise’s participation in international supply and value chain.
In addition, Viet Nam also encourages global and Korean financial institutions to invest in the financial and banking sectors with a view to gradually turning Viet Nam into an important financial center in the region.
Q: What are your country’s competitive products and/or services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies in your country exporting your products to Korea?
A: Korea has been a major export market with great potentials for Vietnamese enterprises in many fields. Korea is currently the biggest investor in Viet Nam, the second largest partner in terms of ODA, tourism and labor. Korea is the third largest trading partner of Viet Nam (after the US and China), with bilateral trade turnover of 78.1 billion USD in 2021 and an estimated more than 80 billion in 2022.
Viet Nam was a key partner of Korea in the “New Southern Policy Plus” under former President Moon Jae-in and the Indo-Pacific Strategy promoted by President Yoon Suk-yeol government. Trade turnover between Viet Nam and Korea accounts for more than 40% of the total trade turnover between Korea and ASEAN countries.
Vietnamese products are increasingly welcomed and preferred by Korean consumers. Textiles, seafood, wood products, shoes, vegetables, agricultural products, and processed foods are of high demand in Korea. Particularly for textile products, Korea imports over 8 billion USD annually from Viet Nam which shares 32% of the market, only behind China (35%). Such products as men's and women's light jackets, T-shirts, knitted sports wears, shoes, hats, umbrellas account for 20% of the 3 billion worth market in Korea.
Vietnamese wood products are also popular in the Korean market, accounting for 19% of the total market which is worth of 4.1 billion USD. For seafood products, especially shrimp, squid and octopus, Viet Nam ranks number one in Korea with a market share of more than 50%. Vietnamese seafood products are highly appreciated by Korean consumers for their high quality and familiarity to Korean’s taste.
Q: What are the products and services that your country might wish to be import from Korea?
A: Korean goods and products are increasingly gaining the trust of Vietnamese consumers, evidenced by their widespread appearance in Viet Nam. Vietnamese consumers are more and more familiar with such famous brands as Samsung and LG for consumer electronics and electrical products; Hyundai, Kia vehicles; K-food, K-beauty and K-contents. In comparative terms, Korean products have advantages in quality, designs and convenience with competitive prices.
In the coming time, in addition to the import of high-quality products for consumption, Viet Nam will import input materials, equipment and machinery to improve production capacity and meet domestic and export demands. Korean financial and banking services are also of interest to Vietnamese businesses. The need for technology transfer is also higher.
In a greater context, the import of goods and services from South Korea will also contribute positively to the realization of Viet Nam's development goal of industrialization and modernization by 2030.
Q: Who are the major Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries? Please introduce them in detail in the order of size and scale of business activities.
A: The biggest Korean corporations investing in Viet Nam include Samsung, LG, SK, Hyundai, POSCO, KEPCO, Lotte, Hyosung, CJ, Shinhan Bank, GS, Daewoo E&C... They are leading the wave of Korean FDI into Viet Nam, bringing thousands of affiliated vendors and making positive contributions to Viet Nam's socio-economic development.
Samsung Electronics, Samsung Display and Samsung Electro-Mechanics have invested more than 21 billion USD in Viet Nam at 3 complexes in Bac Ninh, Thai Nguyen, Ho Chi Minh City, being Viet Nam's largest FDI partner, contributing about 25% of the export value of smartphones, displays, household electrical appliances, handheld devices, semiconductor components, etc.
LG is the 2nd largest Korean investor in Viet Nam with a total investment capital of over 7.3 billion USD through 3 companies (LG Display, LG Electronics, LG Innotek) in a production complex in Hai Phong, contributing more than 10 billion USD to the export value of display products, household electrical appliances, automotive electrical equipment, etc.
Hyosung, through 4 subsidiaries companies (Hyosung TNS, Hyosung TNC, Hyosung Chemical, Hyosung Advanced Material), has also invested about 4 billion USD in projects in Dong Nai, Vung Tau and Quang Nam.
Lotte has invested in Viet Nam with about 3 billion USD of registered capital in the fields of real estate, logistics, distributions, services and entertainment, etc.
SK also invested over 2 billion USD, focusing in M&A (being strategic shareholders of Vingroup and Masan Group of 2 leading corporations in Viet Nam) as well as in other fields such as energy, pharmaceuticals, environment, etc.
Shinhan Bank is the largest foreign bank in Viet Nam with total assets of over 6 billion USD, and about 50 branches and 2,500 employees nationwide.
Through Hyundai and KIA, Hyundai Motor Group cooperates with Thanh Cong Group and Truong Hai Group to become the top car-maker in Viet Nam.
Q: Korean people, especially the leaders and executives of up-and-coming Korean companies need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: In recent years, foreign tourists have considered Viet Nam as an attractive destination for relaxation and sight-seeing. The potential and attraction of Viet Nam has been recognized by tourists from all over the world, including Koreans. When the Covid-19 pandemic had been well under control, Viet Nam reopened to tourists on March 15, 2022. In only 6 months (from April to October 2022), more than 2.3 million foreign tourists have visited Viet Nam, including 130,000 from South Korea, an increase by 56 times over the same period in 2021. Several factors that make Viet Nam famous amongst international tourists include:
--Viet Nam is home to many beautiful sceneries stretching from South to North which never fail to surprise and amaze tourists with the unique charms that each destination possesses. For instance, the world natural heritage Ha Long Bay is renowned for its scenery of thousands of islands. Thai Binh brings a feeling of serenity and peace with ancient pagodas and soothing green paddy fields. Hoi An creates a sense of calm with the old quarters. Da Lat resembles a European town. Mesmerizing beaches in Da Nang, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc… always deeply impress tourists as soon as they arrive.
--Diverse cuisine, especially street cuisine: Each urban and rural area has its own specialties. The variety of dishes, coupled with different flavors and tastes as well as ways to prepare and enjoy them made Viet Nam a culinary paradise in the eyes of international tourists.
--Fascinating festivals: Viet Nam is home to 54 ethnicities with their beliefs and religions. At both national levels and local, festivals are held with great solemnity and cultural richness. Several festivals that leave strong impressions on international tourists are Tet, Independence Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, Hung Kings Commemoration Day...
--Friendly and hospitable people: Ha Noi people are graceful, Hue people are elegant, Mekong Delta people are generous and carefree. The friendliness, generosity and sociability of Vietnamese people are among many factors that win the heart of foreign visitors. Visitors coming to Viet Nam are always greeted with amicable smiles.
--Affordability: Travelling to Viet Nam is more affordable than other countries in the world.
--Improved service quality: hotels, restaurants, theme parks and golf courses are available and have met international standards. Domestic and international connectivity are much better now.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate.
A: Viet Nam is known as a multicultural country where 54 ethnic groups co-exist and a lot of traditional festivals take place all year round. However, I believe that Tet or Lunar New Year (the equivalence of Chuseok in Korea) is the most special festival for the Vietnamese people.
Tet is the official holiday of Viet Nam. Tet begins on January 1 of the Lunar calendar. This is the most meaningful and important festival in Viet Nam. Before Tet, Vietnamese people usually worship “the Kitchen Gods” (December 23 of the Lunar calendar) and “New Year's Eve” (December 29 or 30 of the Lunar calendar). On the last days of the year, people buy flower and ornament trees to decorate their houses. All kind of food, especially “banh chung” (square cake) are prepared. These are indispensable to prepare for Tet.
During Tet holiday, Vietnamese spend time with their families, visit their relatives, attend to the graves of the deceased, and go to pagodas praying for peace and good fortune. Tet is therefore the occasion for family reunion.
Q: Do you have an Honorary Consul(s) in Korea? If yes, how are they contributing to the promotion of relations, cooperation and friendship between the two countries?
A: Currently, Mr. Park Soo Kwan serves as the Honorary Consul General for Busan, Gyeongsangbuk-do area. He loves Viet Nam and always wants to cultivate the relationship between the two countries at the national and local levels. He is helpful in performing the assigned duties and responsibilities.
The Honorary Consul General is an "extended arm" of the Embassy to fulfill the task of economic and, cultural diplomacy as well as community development and image promotion for Viet Nam. He is especially active in connecting Vietnamese and Korean partners and promoting charity projects. With such contributions, the Honorary Consul General was awarded the Friendship Medal by the State of Viet Nam.
Q: Who among the Koreans are considered to be the most prominently contributing to the promotion of relations, cooperation and friendship between the two countries? We would like to introduce them adequately so that others could follow their suit.
A: Many people and entities have contributed to the development of the Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership relations between Viet Nam and Korea. Politicians pave the way for the relationship; business leaders take the lead in developing economic relations while the ordinary people are promoting people-to-people exchanges.
I especially want to introduce Coach Park Hang-seo, who has associated himself with Vietnamese football for more than 5 years, helping Viet Nam gain many titles in football competitions in Southeast Asia and Asia.
Thanks to those achievements, the national pride, determination, and solidarity for achievements not only in football but also in other fields have been enhanced among the Vietnamese people. He also helps to raise the awareness, understanding and friendship between peoples of our two countries.
In addition, Ambassador Park Noh-wan has also actively contributed to the development of our bilateral relations. During his tenure as Ambassador to Viet Nam, he helped connect businesses and localities of the two countries, promote high-level exchanges as well as support ODA programs for Viet Nam. His friendly demeanor, rich working experience in Viet Nam, and good command of Vietnamese language also helped him win many people’s hearts in Viet Nam.