The Mekong Institute (MI), in cooperation with the Republic of Korea (ROK), has held a multi-stakeholders meeting on The Mekong-ROK Comprehensive Partnership for Mutual Prosperity, to come up with recommendations and action plans to optimize future cooperation between Korea and the Mekong countries, last Thursday, May 3, 2012, in Khon Kaen, Thailand. 

In his opening remarks, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Thailand, H.E. Lim Jae-Hong, said Korea has a great deal to share with the Mekong Countries. Learning from the lessons of its development experience, Korea wishes to work closely with the Mekong region as a partner for development and prosperity. Korea, however, does not want to duplicate projects initiated by other countries. It would like to initiate niche projects with which it can offer its best, without repeating the mistakes made by previous projects in the Mekong region. 

Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee, MIs Steering Committee Chairman and a noted development economist, said in his keynote, We believe better connectivity particularly across the Mekong River, and along with the concept of economic corridors, will enhance trade and investment in the region, and hence bring better economic development for all. He continued, I very much welcome the interest of ROK in helping us improve the situation further. The development of the corridors requires better logistics, good investment, and efficient business operation, and ROK is well-known to be very capable and competitive in those areas. 

The Han-River Declaration

ROK has long been providing Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in the Mekong region. With its plan to double its ODA in the region by 2015, ROK wants to contribute to the Mekong countries in areas where it can have the greatest impact, preventing duplicity and ineffectiveness in its regional efforts, underlining the importance of local ownership in these efforts. 

In October 2011, ROK hosted the first Foreign Ministers Meeting between ROK and the five Mekong Countries in Seoul wherein all six Governments endorsed the Han-River Declaration establishing the Mekong-Republic of Korea Comprehensive Partnership for Mutual Prosperity. With this, they have agreed to launch the cooperation especially in the six priority areas of infrastructure, information and communication technology, green growth, water resource development, agriculture and rural development, and human resource development. 

The Consultative Meeting

Providing an interfacing platform, MI gathered relevant stakeholders to discuss collaborative strategies and actions, addressing their country-specific needs. The main aim of the meeting is to identify how ROK can best contribute to the development of Mekong countries. 

A number of innovative recommendations were made by the delegates to promote close cooperation and promote synergy or regional assistance programs aimed at supporting inclusive, sustainable and environmentally-responsible growth. The need for greater government engagement and involvement with the private sector was also emphasized. 

One particular recommendation that was enthusiastically promoted was to fund a Smart Green Village as a joint venture between the Mekong Institute and Korea’s Global Green Growth Institute to be a model for sustainable development with Green Growth as an economic model in the GMS. A similar project is being funded in the Philippines. 

The inputs and recommendations from the meeting will then be submitted to the Senior Officials Meeting in June and the Korean Mekong Ministerial Meeting in July 2012. In addition, the meeting will help identify organizations in ROK and Mekong countries which are interested and have potential to lead each of the six priority areas, providing an extensive network of key institutions to the implementers. 

The one-day seminar included paper presentations by regional and Korean experts in the morning, and was followed by group discussions to brainstorm contents and intervention modalities for each of the priority areas in the afternoon. 

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