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Background

The advent of disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), big data, advanced robotics and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) — all representative of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — is expected to fundamentally change the global economy. In September 2017, the ASEM Economic Ministerial Meeting (EMM) was held in Seoul and served as a forum to seek for new ways to respond to these global economic changes. At the ASEM EMM, the opportunities and challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents to the ASEM member countries were discussed in depth. In particular, emphasis was placed on regional cooperation among ASEM members to alleviate intensifying inequality, and on how to best protect personal information following disruptions to the global value chain brought on by technological shocks, all while maximizing opportunities for improving productivity and creating new industries driven by the technological revolution. ASEM EMM launched the Seoul Initiative with "Innovative Partnership for Inclusive Prosperity" as a starting point for ongoing cooperation within the ASEM region.

The Seoul Initiative provides a framework to promote sustainable and inclusive growth in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and as part of this, articulates four principles: 1) sustainable growth through inclusiveness, 2) diffusion of creativity and innovation, 3) collaboration based on openness, and 4) fairness and transparency in competition.

Based on these principles, specific plans for five policy responses were proposed. They include: 1) establishing an innovation-friendly regulatory framework through cooperation, 2) fostering favorable conditions for digital transformation, 3) building capacity for MSMEs, 4) facilitating R&D collaboration, and 5) improving human capital and workplaces.

Korea offered to host the ASEM Conference in 2018 to create an opportunity to continuously and extensively discuss regional cooperation among ASEM members revolving around the above-mentioned principles and policy directions, and the proposal was welcomed and supported by ASEM member countries.