NEW DELHI • South Korean President Moon Jae-in's trip to India will help create the next largest market for his country, Seoul's Trade Minister said yesterday, calling India the next China for South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.
"The visit to India and Singapore by the head of state marks a move towards launching the New Southern Policy in earnest," Mr Kim Hyun-chong told reporters, referring to President Moon's key foreign policy that seeks to greatly enhance the country's relationship with India and the 10 members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).
Mr Moon arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for a four-day state visit, after which he will visit Singapore, an Asean member.
"As you may well know, the Moon Jae-in government is building a cooperative relationship with India and Asean, which are thought to be the next China, while upgrading the country's relationship with India and Asean countries to the level of its ties with the four super powers," Mr Kim said, according to Yonhap.
The four super powers refer to the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
The move to enhance South Korea's economic and trade relations with the Asian countries comes after its diplomatic row with China over the deployment of the Thaad US missile defence system in Korea.
The move led to a series of apparent economic retaliation from China, the world's single largest importer of South Korean goods, which inevitably left a crippling dent in the Korean economy, from which many Koreans believe the country has yet to fully recover. "Now we need a turning point in our economic cooperation with India and Asean countries," Mr Kim said.
To this end, Seoul will seek to help build and improve shipping and distribution networks in the South-east Asian economies.
"Though we may have opened the doors to the markets with the Korea-Asean free trade agreement and Korea-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa), there may be difficulties in supplying our companies' products unless there is an adequate distribution network in those markets," the minister said.
South Korea will also help finance major infrastructure projects in India and the 10 Asean countries. Also, the government will seek to promote investment between South Korea and the Asian countries, Yonhap reported.
Mr Kim noted India will continue to grow in its sheer size with its population expected to reach more than 1.5 billion in 2030, becoming the world's single largest market.
Already, South Korea and India have held five rounds of negotiations to expand their bilateral free trade pact, Cepa, which went into effect at the start of 2010.
President Moon is set to hold a bilateral summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, followed by a meeting with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and a state dinner to be hosted by his Indian counterpart.
He will head to Singapore tomorrow for a summit with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Moon will return to South Korea on Friday.