[VIEWPOINT]Korea needs English radio days

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea needs English radio days

Seoul's effort to become a regional commercial hub is gaining momentum and is having an impact both domestically and internationally. The Ministry of Finance and Economy is working on various measures to improve the investment and business climate in Korea.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy is also taking measures that will enhance Korea's competitiveness in attracting foreign investors. In connection with the World Cup, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Seoul City Government have invited foreign business leaders to attend World Cup events and also to take a new look at Korea's business environment.

Already, governments in the region have felt pressure from Korea's moves, and there is good reason for them to feel threatened. The vibrant economy, the now business-friendly government, an extremely hard working and intelligent work force and Seoul's central geographic location, make Korea the natural place to establish Asia's business hub.

In response to this pressure, Singapore recently announced significant changes to its tax policies by reducing the maximum personal income tax rates to 20 percent and reducing corporate taxes to 22 percent. Singapore has also liberalized its policies on taxation on stock options and expanded benefits to corporations to encourage the establishment of research and development centers there.

Simply stating that we want to become the business hub of Asia is not going to be enough. Korea must implement the policies and create the environment necessary for companies to relocate their regional head offices to Seoul. In the race to become the regional hub, being almost good enough will not work. Partial responses will receive a cold reception from businesses.

Apart from the changes required in respect to foreign exchange, taxation and labor markets, living conditions for expatriates are critically important. Several key improvements have been made and are being planned to make Korea a hospitable and comfortable location, but an additional, small measure can be taken that would make a tremendous difference in the lives of foreign residents in Seoul. Korea lacks an English language radio station. In this age of globalization, Korea should have an English language radio station. The benefits of such a station would be tremendous.

Every year Korea attracts more than 5 million tourists. These tourists can use an English language broadcast to be better informed about cultural events and simple matters, such as tomorrow's weather . This would be a tremendous aid for tourists and would make them feel more welcome. It would ensure they return and make them more willing to encourage their friends to visit Korea.

A station would be a tremendous help to businesses and other organizations catering to the needs of tourists and boost Korea's foreign exchange earnings.

An English language radio station can be used as an important tool to reach the business and investment community. Foreign residents would be better informed about events; thus, they would feel less isolated and see themselves as an important part of the Korean community.

An English language radio station would burnish Korea's image, and, as an additional benefit, the broadcasts would be a tremendous tool in improving Koreans' English language skills.

We have arrived at a very important moment in Korean history. The global economic environment is now ripe for Korea to become the regional hub of Asia. This is not a fantasy, but a realistic dream that can be achieved, an accomplishment that would restore Korea's historical role as the crossroads of trade in Asia.


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The writer is the president of American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

by Jeffrey Jones

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