The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) is an international organization established with a vision to promote peace and common prosperity among China, Japan, and South Korea. Upon the agreement signed and ratified by each of the three governments, the TCS was officially inaugurated in Seoul, on 1 September 2011. On the basis of equal participation, each government shares 1/3 of the total operational budget.
The idea of a trilateral framework between China, Japan and South Korea has its roots in the late 1990s, when a participant at one of the monthly breakfasts between experts and Japanese Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi suggested holding a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the pre-existing ASEAN meetings. Keizō Obuchi liked the idea and Tokyo formally proposed the idea to Beijing and Seoul, resulting in a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the 1999 ASEAN+3 Summit in Manila. This meeting marked the first step for developing trilateral cooperation and its framework, with 1999 being celebrated as the first year of China-Japan-South Korea cooperation.
The three countries continued to hold annual meetings at the ASEAN+3 Summit, when in 2004, Korean President Roh Moo-hyun proposed holding the trilateral meetings outside the ASEAN+3 framework. After several years of negotiations, the three countries agreed at the 2007 ASEAN+3 Summit to hold separate stand-alone meetings in the future. Hence, in 2008, what began as a side-conference to the ASEAN meetings officially developed into the first China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit, held in Fukuoka, Japan.
Discussions of a stand-alone secretariat began in 2009, when Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed its establishment at the 2nd Trilateral Summit held in Beijing, China. This was officially agreed upon by the three countries in May 2010 at the 3rd Trilateral Summit held in Jeju, South Korea, where the three leaders signed the Agreement on the Establishment of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat. In September 2011, the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat was established in Seoul, South Korea.
As of 2018, the population of China, Japan and South Korea combined was about 1.57 billion people (21% of the world population). The population growth rate was positive at 0.2% in 2018. 17.43% of the population was in the 0-14 age range, 70.17% in the 15-64 age range, and 12.38% in the 65+ age range. Compared with the world, which had 26%, 65%, and 9% respectively. This demographic trend of an aging society with a decreasing birth rate explains why the three countries continue to cooperate on this issue.
Throughout the late 20th century, Japan and South Korea continued to see increasing numbers in the urban population, with the percentage of those living in urban areas being 91.7% and 81.4% respectively, as of 2019. China lagged behind, with the urban population accounting for 36.2% in 2000. However China's rapid economic growth in the last two decades have led to a urbanization boom, with nearly 60% of its population currently living in urban areas.
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The TCS consists of a Consultative Board and four Departments. The Consultative Board, which is the executive decision-making body of the organization, is composed of a Secretary-General and two Deputy Secretaries-General. The Secretary-General is appointed on a two-year rotational basis in the order of the South Korea, Japan, and China. Each country other than the one of the Secretary-General nominates a Deputy Secretary-General respectively. Under the Consultative Board, there are four Departments of Political Affairs, Economic Affairs, Socio-Cultural Affairs, and Management and Coordination. The Four Departments are composed of officials seconded by the three countries, and General Service Staff recruited through open competition from the three countries.
- Shin Bong-kil (1 September 2011 - 31 August 2013)
- Shigeo Iwatani (1 September 2013 - 31 August 2015)
- Yang Houlan (1 September 2015 – 31 August 2017)
- Lee Jong-heon (1 September 2017 – 31 August 2019)
- Yamamoto Yasushi & Han Mei (Deputies)
- Hisashi Michigami (1 September 2019 – 31 August 2021)
- Ou Boqian (1 September 2021 – present)
Functions and activities
- Provide administrative and technical support for the operation and management of such trilateral consultative mechanisms among the three countries as the Trilateral Summit Meeting, the Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the Three-Party Committee and other ministerial meetings, and the Trilateral Senior Foreign Affairs Officials’ Consultation and to send, if necessary, its representatives to attend major consultative mechanisms.
- Communicate and coordinate with the three countries and, if necessary, with other international organizations.
- Explore and identify potential cooperative projects among the three countries and report those projects to the relevant consultative mechanisms for adoption.
- Evaluate the cooperative projects and draft reports on them, compile necessary documents into database, and submit annual progress reports to the Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting for approval.
- Conduct research on important issues related to the trilateral cooperation, manage the Secretariat’s website, and promote understanding of the trilateral cooperation.
Participation in trilateral consultative mechanisms
- Trilateral Summit, ASEAN+3 Summit
- Other high-level and working-level trilateral mechanisms including the Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Economic and Trade Ministers’ Meeting, Culture Ministers’ Meeting, the Tripartite Health Ministers’ Meeting (THMM), and the Tripartite Environmental Ministers’ Meeting (TEMM)
Promoting trilateral cooperation / Cooperative projects
- International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation (IFTC)
- CJK FTA Seminar
- Trilateral Entrepreneurs Forum
- Trilateral Journalist Exchange Program (TJEP)
- Young Ambassador Program (YAP)
- Trilateral Youth Summit (TYS)
- Asia International Youth Film Festival (AIYFF)
Collaboration with other organizations
- Maintaining relationship and expanding network with other regional and international organizations
Research and Publications
- TCS Annual Reports
- Trilateral Statistics booklets
- Other publications relating to political, economic and socio-cultural cooperation
- Compilation of information database regarding trilateral cooperation
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- "Urban population (% of total population) - China | Data". data.worldbank.org. Retrieved 2021-01-27.
- United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division (2019). "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision (ST/ESA/SER.A/420)" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-01-27.
- "About TCS Structure". www.tcs-asia.org. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
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- Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat. "TCS Research and Publications". tcs-asia.org.