Interview: Kim Sung-Hwan

How would you assess Republic of Korea-Brunei Darussalam bilateral relations and economic ties, and how can these be deepened?

KIM SUNG-HWAN: Korea-Brunei Darussalam bilateral relations and economic ties are in excellent shape. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1984, right after the independence of Brunei Darussalam, and we have maintained close cooperative ties over the past three decades. As Brunei Darussalam chairs ASEAN in 2013, I expect greater cooperation between our two countries in 2013 and thereafter. We are grateful to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and his government for its consistent support of Korea in the global arena. Korea will continue to play a constructive role in the international community in the years to come, including as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.

As to the economic ties between our two countries, I would like to see continued expansion of our cooperation and partnership. Though Korea is the secondlargest export market for Brunei Darussalam, there is still potential for further development, especially outside of the oil and gas sector. In IT, our two countries have already made substantial progress in e-government. In fact, the 2012 e-government UN index saw Brunei Darussalam jump from 68th to 54th. And Korea, as the top country in the e-government index, has helped the Sultanate by cooperating on the mechanism of University of Brunei Darussalam e-Government Innovation Centre. Another area of cooperation is construction. Korean firms have built major infrastructure in Brunei Darussalam in the past, including harbour facilities. The future for further cooperation is strong with more firms interested in working in the Sultanate.

What level of growth is expected for bilateral trade in the coming years, and in what areas?

KIM: Korea is now Brunei Darussalam’s second-largest export market, with trade between the two countries reaching $2.6bn in 2011. More than 90% of trade is Korea’s import of oil and gas from Brunei Darussalam.

I would like to see our trade become more diversified and balanced in terms of goods and the export/import ratio. Korea would also like to contribute to Wawasan Brunei 2035. It is with great interest that we note Bruneian efforts to increase local content in the economy, and would like to offer support by sharing our development and industrialisation experience.

With the increasing trend of Bruneian students choosing Korea as their study destination, how can this knowledge exchange be developed further?

KIM: University of Brunei Darussalam facilitated cooperation with many Korean universities, which has brought about this increase. Going forward, we would also like to expand our ties in economic and trade areas. Better understanding of each other’s culture and society, as well as language, will be helpful in laying a solid foundation for further development.

In what way can Korea and ASEAN diversify bilateral trade and product offerings to boost economic activity in the region?

KIM: Since the establishment of the Dialogue Partnership in 1989, Korea-ASEAN relations have made great strides, especially in the field of economic cooperation.

In 2009 the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement ( AKFTA) entered into effect, facilitating the flow of trade and investment. AKFTA has greatly enhanced trade volume between the two sides, which reached $125bn in 2011. ASEAN is now Korea’s second-largest trade partner, and, in 2011, ASEAN also became Korea’s secondlargest destination for foreign direct investment as well as the second-largest market for construction projects. Although AKFTA has been instrumental in boosting our trade and investment, the utilisation rate remains low. If we work on specific measures to promote the trade agreement, we can reach $150bn in bilateral trade volume by 2015, an objective which was set at the 2009 ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit.