&#91OUTLOOK&#93Information in the new century

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[OUTLOOK]Information in the new century

It’s sizzling. And it’s not only the weather that’s sizzling. While even the burning sun of August seems unable to revive the frozen economy, the dispute over the site of the nuclear waste facility, following that over the Saemangeum reclamation project, is getting more and more heated. Meanwhile, the multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear project may begin, and the brooding combination of North Korea’s threats and U.S. pressure could very well explode like an unpredictable dormant volcano.
The government and the politicians who should be tackling these difficulties and offering some shelter from the August heat to the people are fanning the flames instead. Unlike the fresh-sounding name, the Goodmorning City Corp. scandal is getting messier and uglier. The moral indifference of the president and his aides has reached dangerous levels and Yeouido, the seat of the National Assembly, is swarming with calculations about next year’s legislative elections.
Is there no way to blast away this August heat with one blow? Let’s focus on the vision of building a 21st century intelligent state. Our politics and society are continuously repeating the folly of understanding the domestic and international problems we face today in the obsolete perspective of physical force, money power and ideology. Rather than prevent these problems, we foolishly try to get rid of them after the milk is spilled. On the other hand, the forerunners of the history of the 21st century compete fiercely in a more efficient way to solve problems with the use of intelligence power that has emerged as a new source of power through the information technology revolution.
How do we ensure that we take the correct turn in the fork in the road into the 21st century that could lead into civilization or barbarity, of becoming an ignorant state or an intelligent state?
First, it is urgent that our political leaders realize that the historical stage for the 21st century has changed. Foremost among the changes is the fact that we must compete to build an intelligent state. The information technology revolution has brought a new revolution. Intelligence management is indispensable for a business to become a growth business at the head of the world in the 21st century. War in the 21st century, as the recent war in Iraq has shown, is turning into an intelligence-based war.
The advanced states in the 21st century are concentrating their efforts on making policies based on intelligence, applying the best information within and without the country. These states, rather than laboring to control the conflicts of violence, money power and ideology after they break out, are striving to reduce the outbreak of conflicts by adopting and implementing intelligence-based policies beforehand.
Next, we must create a proper pool of national intelligence based on the collection and analysis of world intelligence and social intelligence from within the country. The application of world intelligence may not be as easy as one might think.
We must be able to use world intelligence in a completely different way than in the past due to the revolution in information technology.
Even now, over 30 million Internet sites are pouring out a vast amount of information into cyberspace. It would be impossible to become an intelligent state in the 21st century without the ability to use this cyberworld intelligence. Our foreign and domestic policies have barely graduated from the stage of manual labor. An intelligent state is impossible without social intelligence. Only policies produced by revealing and managing tacit social understanding will be able to minimize the clash of interests among the constituents of society. The meetings of so-called policy advisory committees in the government, which are supposed to promote policies after they are made, should be transformed to policy-building meetings that really matter.
Lastly, an advanced intelligent state is only possible building on the foundation of an advanced intelligent society. The intelligence level of a society is decided by many factors such as universities, businesses, the public media and civic groups.
Among these, the role of universities is the most important. The shape of Korean society today is the shape of what Korean universities had been in the 1980s. To speculate about the future of competition among 21st-century intelligent states, just take a look at and compare the libraries and research laboratories of universities around the world. The future looks bleak for Korea.
Moreover, the advanced intelligent states seek the application and initiation of world intelligence first, before pursuing the equalization of social intelligence.
Our education and research policies, on the other hand, put equalization of social intelligence before the application of world intelligence. Should this continue, Korea would be unable to take any leading role even in the East Asian intelligence order, let alone the world intelligence order.
If we want to build an advanced intelligent state, we must first change the direction of today’s university education and research policies.

* The writer is a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Ha Young-sun
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