October 25, 2011

S. Korea, Mekong nations to deepen economic cooperation

[Yonhap News Agency]
SEOUL, Oct. 25 -- The foreign ministers of South Korea and Southeast Asia's five Mekong River nations will hold their first meeting in Seoul this week as Asia's fourth-largest economy looks to deepen economic cooperation with the resource-rich region, officials said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan will host his counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand for the inaugural Korea-Mekong Foreign Ministers Meeting, set for Thursday and Friday, ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

"In the wake of the inaugural meeting, we will actively forge cooperation with the Mekong region in the economic and development sectors," Cho said.

South Korea "plans to develop its cooperation with Mekong nations in a more systematic manner through the foreign ministers' meeting," the spokesman said.

The meeting was proposed by President Lee Myung-bak in October last year after a summit in Hanoi with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The 4,800-kilometer Mekong River, which originates in China, runs through the five Southeast Asian nations. With abundant hydraulic, lumber and mineral resources, the region has great potential for growth, recently drawing growing interest and support from the international community.

Annual trade between South Korea and the five Mekong nations jumped to US$25 billion last year from an average $1.5 billion in the 1990s, according to the ministry.

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