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 14 Mar 2009

Korea-Asean Center opens in Seoul

An international agency tasked with boosting ties between South Korea and Southeast Asian countries was inaugurated here Friday as part of Seoul's initiative to reach out to the region, which has recently grown in political and economic importance, South Korea’s government news agency Yonhap reported.

"The Korea-Asean Center will play a big role in cementing cooperative relations between South Korea and the Asean countries by promoting trade, investment, cultural and human exchanges, and tourism," Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said at the launch ceremony for the organisation, attended by more than 200 local and foreign dignitaries including Thailand's Foreign Minister, Kasit Piromya.

Thailand chairs this year's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which also involves Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Han added the organisation is expected to play a pivotal role in resolving various regional and international issues, including the financial crisis and climate change.

The agency is the second inter-governmental organisation to be based in Seoul. The International Vaccine Institute was established in 1994 under the auspices of the UN Development Program.

South Korea and each of the Asean nations will dispatch a director-level government official to the secretariat of the center's headquarters here.

Cho Young-jai, South Korea's former ambassador to Italy, has been tapped as the first chief of the organisation for a three-year term.

In 2007, then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun announced a plan to set up the center during the 10th summit between South Korea and Asean in Cebu, the Philippines.




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