What a gathering indeed. On one lucidly red and yellow-tinged autumn day, ministerial-level forestry officials of Korea and 10 ASEAN members gathered in Seoul to discuss ways forward for their reciprocal forest cooperation.
The high-level meeting on forestry held on Oct. 31, prior to the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-ROK Summit, was an auspicious occasion under the theme “Our Forests for Prosperity and Peace.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in added weight to the event with a message that peace and prosperity could be enhanced through close forest cooperation.
Minister Kim Jae-hyun (Korea Forest Service)
Korea and ASEAN states have long been trusted partners in forest cooperation. The cooperative trajectory started in 1968 when a Korean company invested in forest development in Indonesia. Since the 2011 conclusion of the ASEAN-ROK Forest Cooperation Agreement, diverse cooperative projects including ones designed for restoration of degraded forests have been conducted. Along the way the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), an international body dedicated to forestry, was launched to jointly respond to the impacts of climate change. The AFoCO Regional Education and Training Center has taken a firm root as a platform where best practices and technologies in forestry are seamlessly shared. In addition, field-centered projects have been carried out through the Korea-Indonesia Forest Center in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Korea-Mekong Forest Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Most projects implemented so far have long revolved around the restoration of devastated forests, harnessing experiences of successful reforestation in Korea.
At the ASEAN-ROK High-Level Meeting on Forestry 2019, however, beneficial functions and cooperative methodologies in forestry were constructively explored based on accumulated trust and lessons from forest cooperation shaped between the two sides.
The Korea Forest Service proposed measures to utilize forestry as a primary vehicle for realizing the nation’s New Southern Policy whose three pillars consist of “People, Peace and Prosperity,” viewing ASEAN members as considerable partners at the high-level gathering.
Denuded land is more vulnerable to natural disasters and poverty is highly likely. On the other hand, lush forests generate a variety of food and bring about enhanced stability and tranquility in life most of the time, which also goes for the border-sharing areas; collaboratively planting trees and building forests in the fields susceptible to disputes could end up easing tension and promoting peace in the land concerned. In order to ensure the idea will get across, KFS launched the Peace Forest Initiative in September, 2019 at the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification held in New Delhi, India. Besides, the initiative was widely welcomed by the ASEAN states at the high-level forestry gathering.
One of the major agenda of the forestry event was “Forest vision for prosperity.”
Both Korea and ASEAN nations took note of the necessity for job creation and income enhancement in local communities through substantial projects and programs in forestry, appreciating the growth potential of mountainous villages. In particular, the ASEAN members could have a clearer picture of Korea’s policy program entitled “Korea with forests enriching all,” designed to boost jobs and incomes from well-managed forests. Both sides hoped that novel community-participatory projects on forest cooperation will be seamlessly identified and conducted.
Also, officials from Korea and the ASEAN bloc jointly adopted the Declaration on Forest Cooperation for Peace and Prosperity into which our aspiration and intent for peace and prosperity built on forest cooperation are impeccably seeped. With the declaration adopted, both sides once again consolidated their commitment to forest cooperation.
The 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-ROK Summit, both of which will be held late this November in Busan, Korea, are all just around the corner.
At the upcoming summit, forestry is expected to draw attention as a catalyst for peace and prosperity, making up considerable parts of the New Southern Policy, taking good advantage of the accumulated accomplishments of the reciprocal forest cooperation.
Cooperation in forestry between the two sides has been ever-tightening through the previous ASEAN-ROK ministerial meetings on forestry held in 2012 and in 2014 respectively and the latest ASEAN-ROK High-Level Meeting on Forestry 2019. Hopefully, the seeds jointly planted by Korea and the ASEAN friends will soon grow into rich forests contributing to peace and prosperity for all.
By Kim Jae-hyun
Minister of Korea Forest Service