What’s going on at ASEAN Roundtable?

Every Wednesday afternoon in a lecture room at Graduate School of International University, Seoul National University, it is not surprising to see a group of students enjoying their lunch while having discussions on ASEAN-related issues. Initiated in April, earlier this year, ASEAN Roundtable has been providing a semi-formal academic platform for those who are interested in political, economic and socio-cultural affairs of ASEAN. Over the two semesters that the Roundtable has attracted a diverse pool of talented students from more than 50 members from 25 different countries. On a regular basis, there weekly held a presentation session where students are encouraged to openly share their opinions on various topics.

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Some examples of presentation topics are implications of US-China trade conflicts to ASEAN, regional identity, regional value chains and FDI, and ASEAN roles in the security between two Koreas. Participants from different continents also interestingly echoed their comparative perspectives, such as the topic of labour mobility policy in ASEAN and MERCOSUR; and intra-regional trade relations between ASEAN member states and ECOWAS member states. The diversity of student body has enriched the variety of topics expanding their intellectual capacity, not only ASEAN-related affairs but also the changing global dynamics on a broader horizon.

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Not only can the participants learn from informative sessions, they can also choose to participate in organised institutional visits at the end of each semester. This autumn semester, the student representative was able to visit four diplomatic missions in total. This activity was created to encourage more interactions between students and practitioners, providing platforms for students to reflect on theoretical and practical realities. The first institutional visit was to Thai Embassy where the Ambassador kindly shared the agenda of Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2019 under the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”.

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The Embassy of Vietnam was the other bilateral diplomatic mission the group visited. There the Ambassador shared perspectives on ASEAN relations with the two Koreas. Lastly, the group also obtained a great opportunity to visit the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) and the ASEAN-Korea Centre (AKC). There, the students had an opportunity to reflect their ideas on the role of youth in people-to-people exchanges in regional community.    

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The coordinator team has shared the feedback from participants of the Roundtable. The activities have increased the awareness and have enhanced the understanding of ASEAN. Most importantly, the Roundtable has made a designated space to allow engagement from youth participants into academic and policy discussions. We appreciate for generous support given from the ASEAN-Korea Centre and Yulchon LLC at the initial stage of the Roundtable. Furthermore, in tandem with the vision and encouragement of SNU GSIS faculties, we have become the very first student-run Roundtable on ASEAN studies in South Korea. Under Professor Kim Chong-Sup’s kind supervision, we could successfully establish the Roundtable activities.”

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Next year, 2019, will mark 30th anniversary of ASEAN-Korea relations. In addition, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has announced the “New Southern Policy” that emphasises three core pillars of “peace, prosperity, and people”. This suggests that it is a high time for both peoples of Korea and ASEAN to learn more about each other and create more cooperative environment in global society. ASEAN Roundtable, though humble in terms of participant numbers, has well represented the bottom-up driven efforts and enthusiasm from the students to promote mutual understanding between ASEAN and Korea.

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