[VIEWPOINT]Toadying is holding Korea backI was surprised while I watched the televised debate between th presidential candidates Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Chung criticized Mr. Roh's comment that he would not bow his head to America if he became the president of Korea. I do not understand why the phrase was seen as a problem. It is no wonder that the would-be head of state said something like that in public. How can he become a leader of 50 million Koreans and talk about reunification without that kind of national pride? Mr. Chung criticized him because he wanted to emphasize the importance of the United States in Korean politics. But voters who were watching the debate must have felt bitter.
I am not anti-American at all. I finished my doctoral degree there and lived there for 10 years as a professor. I have noticed both good and bad aspects of the United States. After all those experiences, one thing is clear to me now. I think it is absolutely necessary to eradicate the toadyism toward the United States and the subservience to the powerful that is entrenched in some Korean intellectuals and well-to-do people. The future of Korea will not be bright without stamping out the toadyism of some Koreans.
A capable professor in Korea is considered to be one who teaches his students with American texts even though the contents of the books do not match the realities of Korea. One can be considered an expert if he criticizes the Korean system citing an American example. A conference in Korea is considered enlightening if a famous American scholar, no matter what he says, attends it.
The present government's economic policy is yet just another example. The government opened its financial markets even to foreign speculators, claiming that inducing more foreign investment will contribute to the Korean economy. Of course, opening our market to foreigners is necessary. But real openness is learning more about foreign countries to enrich and develop our culture and our economy; it is not to use foreign power to remove enemies inside. It would be more desirable for Korea to go abroad. Why can a Korean company receive a great reception abroad and be criticized as corrupt inside Korea? Korean companies had to develop competitiveness to survive in foreign markets. But in Korea, there exist hundreds of easy ways of making money and many companies have engaged in corrupt activities that contributed to the 1997 financial crisis. Korean companies need to compete in the global arena since the Korean market is too small to support them.
This is an era when almost everything in the world is connected and we cannot live by ourselves. Further opening of the Korean market and endless restructuring of the Korean economy have become inevitable tasks and must continue. But the restructuring of the economy or opening of our markets should be voluntarily managed. A restructuring or opening done by the logic of foreign power will not be completed successfully and will not be effective.
Market opening can be either a threat or an opportunity. The United States is always related to Korean openness; whether we like it or not, we have to recognize who is the big dog in the world. The United States has the world's largest, fairest, and most open market; it not only threatens Korea but gives it great opportunities.
For better opening and restructuring of the Korean economy in the era of globalization, we have to have a progressive leadership and earn more while giving less on the world stage. Market liberalization is not a bilateral agreement among countries to give and receive on equal terms. Each country must make its own decisions and work for its national interests or it will be a loser.
The recent candlelight protests are not anti-Americanism; they are an expression of our desire to live independently. We must be more powerful; as a first step, we must correct the thoughts of some Korean opinion leaders about sovereignty and openness.
* The writer is a professor of economics at Ewha Womans University.
by Chun Chu-song