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[In-depth interview]Reviving Mongolia’s early globalism

June 06,2007
The Mongol Empire, built by Genghis Khan and his descendants, accomplished historic achievements in Asia and Europe 800 years ago, and that is recognized by the world,” said Nambaryn Enkhbayar, president of Mongolia.
“The empire vitalized trade, mutual understanding, multilateral cooperation and cultural exchanges among countries in Asia and Europe; in doing so, it established the first foundation for globalism.”
Enkhbayar, 49, worked as a journalist and translator in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was elected a lawmaker in 1992 then served as culture minister in 1992 to 1996. He was the prime minister from 2000 for four years and was elected president of Mongolia in May 2005.
Kim Young-hie, the JoongAng Ilbo’s editor-at-large, interviewed Enkhbayar during his state visit to Korea in late May. The Mongolian president spoke about the challenges his country faces and his vision for its transformation from a socialist nation to a liberal democracy.

Q. Do you think of yourself as the Tony Blair of Asia?
A.As the leader of the Mongolian People’s Revo-lutionary Party when I won the election in 2000, a Reuters journalist called me “Asia’s Tony Blair” and the nickname followed me ever since. I believe in “The Third Path.” Leftists believe that the government must do everything, while rightists believe the government must do nothing. I disagree with extremists and leaning to either side. The issue is how much and how effectively a government should play a role. The outcome is important, and adopting a policy focused on outcomes is the third path.
You visited North Korea as prime minister. What was your impression of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il?
I visited North Korea in 2003. It is inappropriate to say whether another state leader is good or bad. I see him as a partner governing another country and we share a mutually respectful relationship.

When Mongolia became a socialist nation, it stopped using its traditional alphabet and adopted the Cyrillic alphabet from Russia. Is there a need, possibility or demand from the public to return to the classic Mongolian alphabet?
The classic Mongolian alphabet is the Mongol people’s priceless inheritance from its centuries-old history and intellectual culture. All Mongols must know the alphabet. Right now, Mongolia uses both the classic Mongolian alphabet and the Cyrillic alphabet simultaneously, and the country is also open to the use of the Latin alphabet. I support that as well.

Is there a plan for the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party to apologize to the people for its rule?
In the 1930s, Mongolia suppressed human rights and freedom and purged thousands of intellectuals, monks and ordinary citizens because of its neighbors’ political situation and distorted notions of Stalinism and communist ideology. Many members of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party were also purged. Failure to protect the people from the massive purge was the party’s biggest mistake. When I was the party’s leader, I apologized to the people for that. It was what I must do to reform the party.

How far has Mongolia’s transformation to a market economy progressed?
Privatization was not easy. Most of the state-owned properties are now privatized, and private companies currently comprise 80 percent of the gross domestic product. However, it is too early to say that the entire process of privatization was a success. It is ongoing at this moment.

Is Mongolia’s Korean Peninsula policy focused on keeping the same distance with the South and the North?
We are maintaining traditional friendships with both Koreas and that will continue. If necessary, Mongolia is ready to contribute in establishing understanding and trust between the two Koreas.

What is your position on the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula?
To reinforce security and peace in Northeast Asia, stabilization of the Korean Peninsula is crucial. Mongolia, just like other Northeast Asian neighbors, supports a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. To resolve the nuclear crisis in the framework of the six-nation talks, Mongolia has been trying to persuade North Korea to continue multilateral talks.

If the six-nation talks succeed in denuclearization and evolve into a multilateral security organization for Northeast Asia, will Mongolia join?
Of course we will. Mongolia had proposed the establishment of a regional multilateral security system.

What kind of economic cooperation will Mongolia have with Korea?
Mongolia wants to improve all aspects of economic ties with Korea. South Korea is our key partner in trade and investment. The trade volume between the two countries grew ten-fold since the 1990s. Korea’s investments in Mongolia continue growing and there have been in-depth discussions on cooperative projects in mining, infrastructure, agriculture, livestock, construction and IT sectors. Some were already implemented. Opportunities for bilateral cooperation are wide open to improve Mongolia’s exports and to expand investments in the country’s mining, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, tourism and information and communication industries.

Mongolia is an inland country located between two superpowers ― China and Russia. What is your vision for making Mongolia an advanced country?
Transforming our economic structure is my priority. The country has overcome the economic and social hardships that accompanied the transition period, and the economy is now stabilized and growing. We have completed the national development strategy and are ready to submit it to the legislature. The 15-year development plan is focused on building a country that has technology, manufacturing, agriculture and livestock industries.
We aim to develop as a nation where healthy, educated people will live without poverty ... building a democratic country that is environmentally friendly, is connected to international financial networks, has a competitive economy and respects human rights.
By 2021, we want to achieve a $12,000 GNP per capita with an average lifespan of 75 years and more than 12 years of education for all citizens.


By Choi Ji-young JoongAng Ilbo [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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