[VIEWPOINT]A critical year for Korea's future

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[VIEWPOINT]A critical year for Korea's future

New years make us feel fresh and vigorous, but the year 2002 is a year that has more meaning to us than others.

First, this year we are given the opportunity to select a president who will lead our country for the next five years. Additionally, we are hosting one of the world's most celebrated events, the World Cup.

This is a year in which our country's future depends on the choices we make and the actions we take. This is truly a unique, precious year of opportunity for Koreans.

Our ancestors of the earlier part of the 20th century, unfortunately, did not have the chance to make choices.

In fact, the only choice they were given was to choose one among several stronger countries, such as China, Japan or Western countries like the United States, on whom to rely for help. The people of our country must unite and establish the fundamental foundation of a unified and developed Korea.

We must play our part this year in constructing a leading, knowledge-based nation in the global society.

First of all, we should enthusiastically participate in the national effort to host the 2002 World Cup games. The international community will view the global event with great interest, so our people must take this opportunity to improve our standards and our credibility. We must seize this historic opportunity to make our society mature and grow for the long term.

The era of globalization in the 21st century is also referred to as a "networked society." The foundation of that society, in which people are intimately linked, is the credibility of its citizens. The credibility builds up naturally when every member of a society practices the basic virtues.

Faith in society grows out of kindness, honesty, cleanliness, discipline and obedience to law, all of which start from a simple state of mind of trying not to harm others. But the present situation of our society is far from keeping up with such basic moral standards.

We must take the World Cup 2002, which we are co-hosting with Japan, as an opportunity to improve and solve our fundamental moral problems.

We must be aware that numerous people in the international community will compare the characteristics of Korean society with those of the Japanese, directly or indirectly.

We must do our best to show the virtue and maturity of Korean society and that it is comparable to that of Japan, and we have to practice Korean virtues and maturity in our everyday lives.

Obviously, the leaders of our society must be as much models of moral principle as any other member of our community.

We must not forget that the good impression we leave in the hearts of the people of the international community during the World Cup 2002 will bring benefits to our economy in the long run. In order to get a proper price for our products and services in the global market, we must first build confidence in Korean companies, Korean people, and our culture and traditions among the international community. And then, as the quality of Korean products is recognized internationally, that quality and acceptance will induce even more respect for our country, traditions and firms.

I don't think I have to stress the importance of the presidential election that will follow the World Cup. The presidential election this year is important because it must establish the foundation of a society that can be trusted and to reinstate the slipping social order.

It is vital that we select a wise leader who can unite us by showing us the blueprints and vision for building a developed country in the 21st century.

There is a saying, "The leader comes from the people," but when the people start to have an accurate view of history and seek the leader that the country needs, such a leader will emerge.

Harry Truman, the American president from 1945 to 1953, said, "Men make history and not the other way around. In periods when there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."

We must try to elect a president who does not think about the next election, but about the next generation.


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The writer is chairman and CEO of the Institute for Global Economics.

by Sakong Il

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