Sharing borders with five member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Laos is seeking to facilitate the connectivity of infrastructure across the region by strengthening cooperation with South Korea.
“There have been already a number of projects supported by the Korean government and implemented by Korean private companies in the past that contributed to the ASEAN connectivity in Laos,” Bounchanh Sinthavong, Laos’ minister of public works and transport, said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
Laos Minister of Public Works and Transport Bounchanh Sinthavong delivers a keynote speech at the 7th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Connectivity Forum in Seoul on July 9. (ASEAN-Korea Center)
Over the last few decades, the Laotian government has committed to developing policies that capture the potential economic benefits of infrastructure investment that transforms regional connectivity.
Currently, the Korean government is taking part in projects to protect the Mekong river bank in Vientiane and Champasack.
Korea is also participating in a feasibility study of the ASEAN Highway, a railway linking Laos and Vietnam, as part of ASEAN Connectivity 2025, a broader initiative adopted by leaders of ASEAN.
Laos runs various projects with the aim of transforming from a landlocked nation to a “land-linked” one with transit services. But the lack of technical capacity and financial resources poses challenges.
“We would like to strongly encourage both the Korean government and private companies to expand cooperation and implement more projects in order to speed up the narrowing down of the development gaps and catch up with those older ASEAN member states,” the minister said.
Sinthavong named priority projects for which the country is requesting support from Korea, such as Pakse airport, the protection of the Mekong river bank in other provinces and railway links from Thakhek to the Laos-Cambodia border, including logistics.
The benefit of such investments is more than just providing transit routes, he said. “I would like to emphasize that it is a vital means of stimulating growth and creating economic corridors through Laos that will allow us to graduate from the least developed country status in the next few years.”
The minister visited Seoul to attend the seventh ASEAN Connectivity Forum, hosted by the ASEAN-Korea Center, on July 9.
The annual forum has been organized since 2013 to keep the Korean business community up to date on connectivity-related infrastructure projects in the sectors of transportation, energy, and information and communication technology in the 10 ASEAN member states.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)