[OUTLOOK]After the party, time to sober up

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[OUTLOOK]After the party, time to sober up

On the day of our glorious World Cup semifinal game, the New York stock market was hit by the disclosure of a $3.8 billion accounting discrepancy at WorldCom, a telecommunication firm. So, while we were rejoicing because of the prowess of our national team, the passionate cheering of our people supposedly generated 26 trillion won ($22 billion) in economic gain. But our stock market crashed with the news from New York; the aggregate value of listed stock losses were, ironically, about 26 trillion won. Somehow, the world seemed to have been going along even while we were immersed in soccer.

The crowd that gathered outside City Hall in Seoul to cheer during the third place game with Turkey heard and saw the news of a naval clash in the Yellow Sea on big screens erected for the game. That was a rude reminder that we were partying when there was a potentially threatening North Korean army looming just hours away. How precarious, we realized, was the stage on which we were celebrating our World Cup success.

We have been living in a world of soccer for the past month. If one only read Korean newspapers, one would think that nothing but soccer had gone on in the world during that time. The Journalists Association of Korea conducted a comparative survey of World Cup-related news in Korea and Japan. It found that during the first and second rounds, there were 1.7 times more soccer-related articles in Korean newspapers than in the Japanese press. The criticism that the national newspapers and television stations were concentrating only on soccer met with no sympathy, and was considered to be a "disruption of national unity" by a few holier-than-thou intellectuals with distorted minds. Still, there was a lot going on in the world besides the World Cup.

I had a chance to visit the Neue Zurcher Zeitung office in Switzerland during a tour of European newspapers in early May. Considered to be one of the world's finest newspapers, the Swiss-based organ has a circulation of only 200,000, but keeps 50 foreign correspondents among a staff of 150 journalists. The newspaper has six or seven sections; the first section, including the front page, is always devoted international news. When I asked Director Marco de Stoppani why there was such an emphasis on international news, he answered, "The politics and economy of small countries like Switzerland are heavily influenced by the international environment, so it is natural that we would cover international news more than national news."

South Koreans always call out for globalization. We know that there is no way but abroad for a small country without any natural resources such as ours. Every time anyone opens his or her mouth these days, it is to stress that we should use this World Cup as a chance to further our globalization. But we are not even using half the advantages that we have gained by hosting the tournament.

The rest of the world saw us clearly in our games and our cheering during the World Cup and maybe even thought, "What a formidable people. We should consider them again." But we didn't learn anything about the outside world during that time. Instead of informing our people of at least the basic facts about the countries that we competed with, such as their political and economic standing and their relations with us, we were only interested in how many goals were scored.

If globalization begins with letting others get to know us and getting to know others, then we've achieved half-globalization. Could it just be possible that we were making the outside world wary of us while we were clapping and shouting and just being a one big, closed family inside? Patriotism only shines bright when it is patriotism that co-exists with the world. Observe how Italy and Spain looked so out of touch with the outside world when they started blaming the referees for their loss to the our team. We should realize that we were very close to looking like them when our country was driven into an anti-American frenzy after the short-track skating incident at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

It's enough that we pat one another on the back ?well, don't overdo the patting, either. Filling our newspapers and television news with World Cup stories, the government designating this day as a holiday, that day as a festival day as if one month of partying was not enough ?that is letting ourselves get too carried away.

Now, we are starting a campaign to keep the World Cup spirit alive. But if we truly want the World Cup to help us in preparing for globalization, we should turn our eyes to the outside world and pay attention to what is going on there.


The writer is a strategic planning executive of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk

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