Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekarn, Mekong Institute (MI) Executive Director, presented progress of the Mekong-Republic of Korea Cooperation Fund (MKCF) to high-level officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the ROK Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on July 13, 2021.
Beginning in 2015, MI has served as fund manager of MKCF, overseeing the implementation of 26 projects and providing technical support to Project Implementing Agencies in Mekong countries. To date, nine projects have been completed, while 13 are in varying stages of implementation, and four more have been approved for funding.
The projects, which range from culture and tourism, human resources development, agriculture and rural development, infrastructure, information and communication technology, environment, and non-traditional security challenges, have resulted to wider adaption of information and communication technology for market expansion, increased development of greener growth models for economic and environmental advancement, improved water resource management, and facilitated a more connected regional agriculture value chain.
Deepening cooperation among Mekong countries and ROK were also reported due to MKCF investments in building people-to-people connection in the areas of education, culture and tourism, skills development, as well as trade and business.
The SOM Meeting Chair, Mr. Park Jae-kyung, Director General for ASEAN and Southeast Asian Affairs of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs, encouraged increased efforts to advance ROK-Mekong Cooperation through economic cooperation, people-to-people exchange, connectivity and infrastructure, agriculture, and water resource management to contribute to the resilient socioeconomic recovery of the region.
Mr. Jae-kyung also commended MI for its implementation of the MKCF-funded “Smart and Sustainable Tourism Development in the Mekong Region,” project, particularly the intergovernmental organization’s timely innovation in enhancing the competitiveness of tourism stakeholders in applying e-market strategies and identifying alternative revenue sources while international travel bans remain in place.
MKCF’s progress under MI management will serve as one of several references in the future direction of Mekong-ROK Cooperation. Its contributions will also be presented at the Mekong-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 3rd Mekong-ROK Summit, and the Mekong-ROK Business Forum in 2021.