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[ASEAN-Korea summit] [Herald Interview] Mekong-ROK Summit will improve living standards in Mekong region: Laotian PM

The first Mekong-Korea Summit will kick off Wednesday in Busan following the conclusion of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit as part of Seoul’s drive to diversify diplomatic and economic channels, reducing reliance on traditional partners.

Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said the Mekong-Korea summit will contribute to advancing the living standards of countries in the Mekong region.

“This (Mekong-Korea summit) will be an opportunity to advance future cooperation by focusing on efficient and sustainable socioeconomic development,” Sisoulith told The Korea Herald in a written interview.

Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith
Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith

“I strongly believe that the 1st Mekong–Korea Summit will contribute to promote stability, peace, socio-economic development and living standard of people in the Mekong region.”

Laos is one of the most important countries in President Moon’s aspirations to advance cooperation with five countries in the Mekong region.

Next year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Laos and Korea. Prior to reestablishing diplomatic ties in 1995, the two had contact in 1974, which broke off the following year.

Sisoulith noted the two countries have worked together in a number of areas, of which Korea’s investments in Laos stand out, totaling $750 million across 257 projects to date.

“It is clear that the relations between our two countries have been deepening and progressing in a positive atmosphere. ... The upcoming year 2020 will be another milestone. On the basis of good Laos-ROK relations, I am confident that our bilateral cooperation will continue to strengthen and broaden, particularly in terms of increased trade and investments in areas where both sides have great potential,” Sisoulith said.

Asked about the synergy of Laos’ Sam Sang policy and Korea’s New Southern Policy, Sisoulith said Korea has contributed to the socio-economic development of Laos in supporting improvements in infrastructure, rural areas, and public health, among other areas.

Sisoulith explained Laos’ Three Builds directive is aimed at “building provinces as a strategic unit, building a district as a strong comprehensive unit and building a village as a development unit.”

“I believe that under the ROK’s New Southern Policy, the ROK will continue to support the Lao PDR toward reaching its goal of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2030,” he said.

Sisoulith had an upbeat projection on the future of the two countries based on the past 24 years of relations.

“I believe that ROK will continue to support and contribute to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s development plan, including infrastructure, economic, trade and investment, and micro, small-and medium-sized enterprises,” Sisoulith said.

The focal point of the country’s development plan is to build upgraded infrastructure and transportation throughout the country that will offer better connection with neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-in met with Sisoulith and his Myanmar counterpart on Tuesday during the ASEAN-Korea summit in Busan to discuss ways to further cooperation and realize peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (
Korea Herald Youtube