BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The leaders of Brunei and South Korea on Monday vowed to deepen cooperation, signing three memoranda of understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation in investment, science and technology and intellectual property.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah hosted President Moon Jae-in  for talks at Istana  Nurul Iman, saying the latter’s state visit was an important milestone marking 35 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

A joint statement issued by the leaders outlined the scope of discussions, ranging from infrastructure development and connectivity, to cooperation in defence, education, agriculture, halal industry, tourism, energy, SMEs, FinTech, science and technology, ICT and smart cities.

“Over these years, our two countries have been developing cooperation in various fields, including trade and investment, infrastructure, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. I believe our meeting today will ensure that this relationship continues to grown in strength and flourish,” Brunei’s monarch said.

“The signing of MoUs todays will further strengthen our resolve to work closely and create more confidence for our agencies and private sector to work together.”

From L-R (front row): HM the Sultan; South Korean President Moon Jae-in; his wife Kim Jung-sook; and HM the Duli Raja Isteri (2L) during an audience at Istana Nurul Iman on March 11, 2019. Photo: Infofoto

‘Infrastructure diplomacy’

In the joint statement, Brunei said it welcomes Korea’s investment and business presence in the country, as well as continued cooperation in infrastructure development.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the MoU on Investment Promotion Cooperation would expand business investment opportunities for both sides.

“We do know that Brunei has ongoing infrastructure development projects and Korean companies have a very strong track record here and would be very interested in participating,” she told The Scoop in an interview.

Korean firm Daelim Industrial is already involved in two of Brunei’s largest infrastructure projects — the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge and Temburong Bridge project. Once completed at the end of 2019, the latter will become Southeast Asia’s longest oversea bridge.

Expanding energy cooperation

Both countries said they would explore further collaboration in both the upstream and downstream oil and gas sectors, and re-establish cooperation in the LNG value chain.

South Korea imports more than one million tonnes or about 4.3 percent of its LNG supply from Brunei each year. Trade volume between the two countries has surpassed $1 billion per annum for the past 10 years.

Kang said: “In the energy sector, we are currently working with Brunei’s state petroleum authority not only to buy your natural gas but to jointly work together to develop new gas fields to produce, to then advance into third market together.”

The two countries also discussed joint capacity-building in renewable energy, and will co-chair the meeting on renewable and alternative power generation under the East Asia Summit.

Paving the way for greater intellectual property protection

The MoU on intellectual property will also pave the way for deeper cooperation in intellectual property rights, said Kang, recognising the Korean Intellectual Property Office as an international searching authority and preliminary examining authority for Brunei’s Intellectual Property Office.

“Under the MoU, Korea’s copyright authorities will work with Brunei’s copyright authorities to assist in the sultanate’s copyright application under the international treaty of copyrights,” the foreign minister explained.

“If you are registered in one country, you are copyrighted in the 150 other member states. But to be able to do that, you need to be certified and to be [certified] you need to conduct studies. Under this MoU, the Korean copyright authority will undertake the studies on behalf of the Brunei authority.”

A third MoU on scientific and technological cooperation was also signed, with both nations keen to work together on issues associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“In today’s world of rapid technological advancement, it is important that we prepare our people with knowledge and skills that are geared towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Brunei sultan’s said Monday night during a state banquet held in honour of the president’s visit.

“We appreciate the Republic of Korea’s sharing of expertise, as we move towards building Brunei as a Smart Nation.”

HM the Sultan delivers a titah during a state banquet in honour of the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Photo: Infofoto

Kang said there are several other MoUs in the pipeline, with above three agreements finalised for the president’s visit.

ASEAN-Korea relations

During the meeting at the palace, both leaders expressed their continued support for multilateralism and ASEAN centrality in the region’s political architecture. 

Brunei is the current country coordinator for ASEAN-Korea dialogue relations from 2018 to 2021, and a commemorative summit between South Korea and the 10 ASEAN members states will be held later this year.

Kang said: “ASEAN as a regional body is a model of intra-regional cooperation. I think our approach to this is we fully appreciate ASEAN centrality and unity. We work with individual countries of the 10 but also with ASEAN as a whole.” 

“This visit is my president’s first overseas visit this year. He decided to do it in Brunei because Brunei is our dialogue coordinator with ASEAN.  We engage with ASEAN through Brunei. In preparing for that summit, Brunei’s role is very important.”

HM the Sultan (R), South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L), HM the Duli Raja Isteri (2L) and the presidents wife Kim Jung-sook (L) leave a banquet held at Istana Nurul Iman. Photo: Infofoto

His Majesty and President Moon also stressed the importance of joint efforts by the international community towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, in order to establish a lasting peace between the North and South.  

Despite recent setbacks, both leaders underlined the importance of continuing the dialogue process.

Brunei and Korea also agreed to increase defence and security cooperation, seeking collaboration in defence technology after an MoU was signed back in September 2018.

The president left Brunei on Tuesday morning to continue his ASEAN tour to Malaysia.