Malaysia calls on ASEAN and South Korea to strengthen cooperation to propagate digital economy


MALAYSIA has called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to continue to enhance cooperation in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector with South Korea to further accelerate digital economy in the region.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) said cooperation between South Korea and ASEAN in the propagation of digital economy would provide the technology-savvy masses with the means to engage in digital economy and ultimately enhance the productivity and economic output of ASEAN Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), despite the current economic slowdown due to the COVID19 pandemic.

“As South Korea is highly regarded as a world-leader in the provision of ICT goods and is making use of the digital economy to further drive productivity, ASEAN is very keen to adopt some of South Korea’s best practices,” he said in his intervention during the 21st ASEAN-South Korea Summit, held on Thursday.

The summit, which was held as part of the 37th ASEAN Summit, was hosted by Vietnam via video conference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It was also attended by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Country Coordinator of ASEAN-South Korea Dialogue Relations, Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Muhyiddin said with a population of more than 650 million people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US$2.6 trillion while the MSME accounts for more than 60 per cent of employment in the region, Malaysia believed that ASEAN is becoming a magnet for expanding businesses and startups looking to test their novel innovations, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The region has long been an area of interest for traditional businesses due to its strategic trade routes and general proximity to the world’s two largest markets, China and India, and is really progressing in this digital era with its fast-growing, mobile-first, rapidly expanding tech-savvy middle class,” Muhyiddin added.

He also hoped that the signing and implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would send a strong message on the importance of strengthening regional economic integration and further spur economic growth between ASEAN and South Korea.

RCEP, which is scheduled to be signed on the last day of the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings this Sunday, consists of 10 Member States of ASEAN as well as Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

He said the establishment of the South Korea-Maritime Southeast Asia Cooperation Fund with an initial contribution from South Korea of US$1 million underpin efforts in enhancing ASEAN Connectivity and further accelerate economic growth in the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) area.

On COVID-19, the prime minister also noted that the pandemic has allowed ASEAN to strengthen its cooperation with South Korea, including through the sharing of information and best practices with the republic to help better manage COVID-19 domestically and plan for post-pandemic recovery.

He said Malaysia is appreciative of South Korea’s assistance and support to ASEAN’s public health initiatives such as South Korea’s contribution of US$1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, South Korea’s project worth US$5 million for enhancing COVID-19 detection capacity in ASEAN, and the supply of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits to countries in need.

“Malaysia itself has benefitted from South Korea’s assistance in increasing its COVID-19 testing capacity from the then 16,500 tests to 22,000 tests per day,” he said.

In expressing Malaysia’s concern on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, Muhyiddin said Malaysia hoped that resumption of dialogues between parties concerned would contribute to reconciliation efforts, commitment to maintaining regional peace and security, and establishing a peaceful environment in the Korean Peninsula.

“ASEAN has always been consistent in its call for a denuclearised Korean Peninsula and for continued constructive dialogue between parties concerned.

“Nevertheless, Malaysia sees the situation in the Korean Peninsula as degrading and is concerned about the short-range missiles tests by the North Korea. Malaysia believes that all efforts should aim at reaffirming the commitment to maintain regional peace and security, and establishing a peaceful environment in the Korean Peninsula,” he said.