South Korea is holding the first summit with Mekong countries on Wednesday. So, we turn our focus to take a closer look at the economic bloc formed around the Mekong River and its amazingly fast growth in recent years.
Lee Min-sun reports. The almost 5-thousand kilometer long Mekong River that runs through the Indochina peninsula connects five ASEAN countries physically and economically.
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are home to 243 million people, many of whom make a living from fishery and agriculture. The region is largely dependent on resources from the Mekong River.
In 2018, those five Mekong countries produced over 111 million tons of rice which accounts for over 15% of the world's total rice production.
"Even if a large part of their economy is still agro based economy, nevertheless, some of the countries in the Mekong region have shown a remarkable growth in the manufacturing sectors of their economy."
The total GDP for the 5 countries in the Mekong region amounts to 866 billion U.S. dollars as of 2018. These regions are also drawing international investors' eyes with a strong economic growth outlook.
According to the International Monetary Fund, as of 2018, the economic growth forecast for Cambodia and Vietnam was over 7% with Laos and Myanmar also expected to grow by over 6%.
"If you look at the average economic growth rate of the whole world which is at 3% and also if you look at ASEAN whose annual growth rate is on average 5%. This 7% might be called phenomenal."
In addition, the region's abundant natural resources and young labor force also make the Mekong region an attractive emerging market.
Thailand's median average age is 38. Vietnam's is just 30. And the average age is even lower at 27 in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
The region has huge development potential in hydropower, timber, mineral resources and natural gas.
The Mekong region also holds geopolitical importance as it borders both India and China, attracting large economic powers such as the U.S., Japan and China to build and strengthen ties with the region in an effort to further promote their own Indo-Pacific strategies.
Lee Min-sun Arirang News.