[VIEWPOINT]Korea's 'soft power' generates envy

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea's 'soft power' generates envy

The joy of watching Korean soccer in Japan was enormous because the Japanese lauded and envied the victory of the Korean team and also the support of the Korean people. It's therefore necessary for us to think about the meaning behind Korean soccer that created such a miracle.

The Japanese are saying that the Korean team's advancement to the semifinals was an achievement that included Japan's share, which was left unfinished. The Japanese gave high praise to the year and a half accomplishments of the coach Guus Hiddink, accomplishments that Japan's coach could not achieve in four years. The Japanese were surprised at the willpower and the physical strength of the Korean team, which ran to the last minute without showing signs of fatigue even when the game went into extra time. Also, the Japanese were amazed at the passion and solidarity of the Korean people when supporting the team. The Japanese applauded the organized behavior of the crowds of millions who took to the streets and plazas without causing major accidents.

The Japanese media reported that some Japanese teenagers actually supported the Korean team and walked the streets wearing "Be the Reds!" T-shirts.

The pundits say it was constructive to co-host the World Cup and as a result the pundits hope the relationship between the two countries will improve considerably. They also point out that Japan can learn a lot from Korea's performance record in economic restructuring.

The Korean team and the Korean people who supported the team have shown that we could join in firm solidarity and with patriotism if there is a consensus on a national goal and a leader who can help complete that goal.

Korea proved to be stronger in soccer than four major countries in its neighborhood -- the United States, China, Russia and Japan. As a result, we are enjoying great dignity and hope. Now Korea has become a strong soccer nation, not just in East Asia but in the world.

Our people now hold the potential of solving any problem if we unite and focus our physical and mental strength on setting a specific goal.

Setting a goal is a point that the Japanese think highly of. The Japanese surely regret their current status of having no sense of impending crisis despite experiencing deeply seated economic stagnation.

But what is the intrinsic strength Koreans have acquired during the World Cup? The foundation of the strength came from the mentality of the players, the consciousness of the organization and the unity of the people. It's soft power, described by Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard University. Mr. Nye differentiates soft power with hard power, which is produced by a nation's military and economic strength. Soft power does not submit to another country by military force, but instead has the ability to buy envy from other countries by showing the desires of its own people. Mr. Nye argues that soft power comes from nonvisual resources such as ideology, culture, leadership, information and systems.

The success of Korean soccer in that sense has shown that Korea can become a powerful country. Although it would not be easy for Korea to become a major military country, since it is surrounded by China, which is rising fast as a new power, with the largest population in the world; by Japan, which follows in global economy; it is near the United States, which is now the only remaining superpower and Russia, which still holds a great deal of nuclear weapons. Korea must exhibit its maximum limit of soft powers to earn the respect of other countries in culture and science technology, just as it earned respect in the World Cup.

Actually, after the Cold War and as the world entered a globalization period, soft power has gained as much importance as hard power. We must devise measures of uplifting the economy and cultural development, applying the recent recognition of our country's prestige and images that resulted from becoming a powerful soccer nation.

The soft power that has been demonstrated during the World Cup should now be focused on clean politics, steady society and corporate innovation. Additionally, soft power should be used to set up a legislation system that would gain public trust.


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The writer is a visiting professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan.

by Ahn Byung-joon

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