Globalization and ASEMAt the first Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Bangkok in 1996, Seoul was selected as the venue of the third meeting of Asian and European heads of government. Even though the citizens of Seoul will be inconvenienced by the expected extreme traffic congestion, the October 20-21 meeting is a significant event for us.
The recent international debate on globalization and ASEM are not directly related, but the ASEM Investment Promotion Action Plan does propose principles governing investment flows between Asia and Europe, The principles emphasize the market economy, an open multilateral trading system, non-discriminatory economic liberalization and consistency with World Trade Organization principles. Those who protest the growing trend toward globalization consider the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund their enemies and may also see these investment principles as another example of pernicious globalization.
It is doubtful, however, that the forces leading to globalization in today''s world can be overcome by protesters who call globalization inappropriate or even evil. It is almost impossible to reverse the flow of history.
Thomas Friedman wrote in his book, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization," that globalization is like the dawn, which comes whether we like it or not. According to Friedman, we did not trigger globalization, and we can not stop it, either.
The World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, held last year in Seattle, the Davos World Economic Forum earlier this year, and the IMF-World Bank annual conference held in Prague last month drew protests from those struggling against globalization. Now the Korean government is concerned about the possibility of anti-globalization protests in Seoul during the ASEM. Friedman argued that the anti-globalization movement is composed of a wide miscellany of groups ranging from environmental activists and labor unions to those who believe aliens from outer space are among us. The only commonality in their anti-globalization positions is that globalization has some kind of negative effect on them, When we look more closely at anti-globalization activities, we find their objectives stated in only vague terms such as the "Flow of world history" or "the system in general."
It is not acceptable for the streets of Seoul to be filled with violence. A meeting of many heads of government is not a common occurrence, and it should be treated as an opportunity to discuss how to reduce or eliminate the negative side effects of globalization.
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