President Park Geun-hye of South Korea is currently in Vietnam at the invitation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung after attending the G20 Leaders' Summit in St. Petersburg. Some have wondered at her choice of a relatively small country for her fourth trip in office.
South Korea only established ties with Vietnam in 1992, but as one of the "Four Asian Tigers," it urgently needed to expand its market to meet rapid economic growth during the 1990s. And Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam could provide cheap labor forces and abundant resources to Seoul to boost economic development.
Another important reason for the smooth development of South Korea-Vietnam bilateral relations lies in cultural identity. The two share Confucian values inherited from Chinese tradition, they thus have many common values and ideals that help facilitate mutual understanding and communication.
Based on these consolidated diplomatic conventions, Seoul and Hanoi seem to have every reason to further deepen their bilateral cooperation, which serves their common interests.
Vietnamese reunification after the North's conquest of the South in 1976 was a troubled process, so the Park administration could draw valuable experience for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
As an emerging market, Hanoi is now yearning for foreign investment amid the ongoing economic downturn. Meanwhile, Seoul has a vital stake in Vietnam, since up to 1,800 South Korean companies are stationed in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam.
It is imperative for the Park administration, with the expectation of exerting more influences on the international community, to attach importance to strategically important Vietnam. The mutually beneficial cooperation between Seoul and Hanoi will definitely lead to progress. In addition to its economic and political concerns, Park also intended to reiterate her tough stance toward Japan in light of Abe administration's extreme right-wing shift and militarist tendency.
By making a trip to a relatively small state in Southeast Asia after the US, China and Russia, Park might attempt to draw international attention to Tokyo's nationalist attitudes and actions.
Park and Dung reportedly also exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula trust-building process and Northeast Asia Peace Initiative. Some media therefore contend that Hanoi may play an important role in helping alleviate the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and that Park is launching a new round of diplomatic maneuvers in compliance with the New Asia Initiative, announced by former president Lee Myung-bak who intended to enhance Korea's cooperation with neighboring Asian countries.
But Vietnam has limited capacity in promoting the relations between the two Koreas despite its past ties with Pyongyang.
It is too far-fetched to say that their bilateral cooperation will exert significant impact on Asia-Pacific peace and security. South Korea and Vietnam strive for a more intimate relationship to safeguard their national interests and advance their development.