Seeking to win the hearts of the five-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by offering his country's technological experience, South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan has truck a receptive chord.
On his recent 14-day visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, the first such trip by A South Korean leader, President Chun Stressed that the peace and security of Southeast Asia is closely connected with that of northeast Asia.
He also stressed the need to expand his country's trade with resource-rich ASEAN. Industrializing South Korea hopes to sell manufactured goods and technology in return for Southeast Asian raw materials.
He pledged Seoul's support for ASEAN efforts to ge Vietnamese soldiers out of Cambodia. In return he sought -- and evidently got -- Southeast Asia backing for his efforts for new reunification talks with North Korea.Previous talks were suspended in 1973.
Still, ASEAN leaders were sometimes publicly cautious on this issue. All ASEAN countries except the Philippines have diplomatic relations with North Korea, and most want to appear neutral on the dispute between the two Koreas.
President Chun stressed that Southeast Asian security was linked with that of northeast Asia, a line of reasoning he used in Drawing up the communique with individual ASEAN countries. In the Philippines, he invoked the two countries' historical ties in the 1950 Korean war, where Filipino soldiers fought on the side of South korea.
his offer of South Korean technological expertise in exchange for basic raw materials such as rubber, tin, timber, and oil was well received. In Indonesia, where President Chun expected to gain a major economic foothold, he agreed to increase his government's participation in the Suharto government's transmigration program.
The Indonesian government was interested in harnessing the South Korean experience in rural development, gained in the Saemaul (New Village) movement, particularly in the construction of basic infrastructure.
The President's energy talks with the Suharto government failed to bring agreement involving a recent Seoul decision to buy liquified natural gas (LNG) from Indonesia. Details on financing and engineering of a gasification plant in north Sumatra were not ironed out. Hence, delivery of Indonesian LNG by 1985 appeared unlikely. Seoul was also interested in buying an additional 10,000 barrels of crude oil per day in addition to its present 13,000 barrels.
In Malaysia, President Chun's second stopover, a comprehensive communique was signed defining specific areas of economic cooperation, ranging from technological and scientific undertakings to encouraging joint ventures by small and medium-scale industries in Malaysia, in exchange for its precious raw materials such as rubber, timber, and tin. Malaysia also signified its interst to buy defense hardware from South Korea, a commodity that the President enthusiastically brought up during his trip. Already, he has boosted a South Korean firm's bid to supply $20 million worth of ammunition.
In Singapore President Chun's party showed its open admiration of the social and economic system pursued by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's government. According to some South Korean officials, Singapore's orderly cities, its equitable sharing of wealth, and the absence of corruption in the government was what they expected South Korea to become -- a happy blend of Western and Eastern influences put to best use.
In Thailand President Chun was received by the King and the Queen, a rare gesture, in the view of some Thai observers. HEe was escorted by the royal couple to Prachin Buri to visit an agricultural project.
Like the Indonesians, the Thai royalty expressed interest in pursuing the Saemaul experiment to mobilize Thailand's rural population. President Chun offered to send technical experts on this rural development scheme to assist Thailand. He also reminded his host of the $5 million contribution made by the Seoul government to help the Indochinese refugees.
President Chun BAcked the Thai policy of closing the door on more Indochinese refugees, voluntarily repatriating many of those already in Thailand, and seeking international aid to resettle refugees in third countries.
In the Philippines the reception was equally warm. A technical agreement on cooperation was signed. President Ferdinand Marcos expressed his interest in how President Chun managed to stabilize his country after former South Korean President Park was assassinated.
For someone new in the art of statecraft, President Chun was seen to display confidence during his entire ASEAN swing. He succeeded in giving his country a new dimension in foreign relations.