[GLOBAL EYE]Korea’s strength lies in strategyThe year of the rooster under the Oriental zodiac has opened with more sighs than laughter and with more sorrow than hopes. As globalization has brought the world together, the disaster in one part of the global village feels as painful as our own. The tidal wave that struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the region has put the Scandinavians in the northernmost corner of Europe in deep grief.
Among the European tourists from the three Scandinavian nations that came to tropical South Asia to escape from cold, gloomy weather in the holiday season, over 3,000 are missing after the tidal wave swept the region. Sweden and Norway are shocked by “the worst national disaster of our time.” Among the Korean tourists that have reportedly been visiting Southeast Asia, nearly 200 have not yet been accounted for.
As the mad cow disease, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the dust and sandstorms from China have proven, globalization of disasters and disease is rapidly spreading. In front of the mighty nature that produced the deadly tsunami sweeping over 6,000 kilometers (3,750 miles) from Sri Lanka to the Indian continent, the global community is helpless. Unlike the coastal regions along the Pacific Ocean with disaster alert systems, the countries around the Indian Ocean were hit by the tsunami unguarded. The shocking size of damage and loss confirms the remaining gap among the nations in the age of globalization.
Because tsunamis occur mostly in the seas around Japan, the Japanese word has become an internationally used term referring to the great waves from an undersea earthquake since 1963. The nations around the Pacific Ocean have established an alert system for the devastating waves. However, the countries in South Asia are suffering more because they are only learning from the experiences of the Pacific nations after the worst tsunami in history. As we welcome the New Year, we should remind ourselves of the importance of collaboration and the sharing of technology and experiences with neighboring countries to counter natural disasters.
This year, the political situation of the Korean Peninsula is often likened to an “active volcano under water” or an area where a “deadly typhoon” is approaching. The countdown for the conclusion of the North Korean nuclear issue has already begun. If the dialogue does not make any progress in the first half of the year, it is probable that the United States would be inclined to impose a blockade and sanctions. There are ominous signs for a possible internal conflict in North Korea within the year. If Korea’s local strategy clashes with Washington’s global strategy like the plates of the earth, the earthquake on the Korean Peninsula might shake the power dynamic of Northeast Asia. What would be the capital plan that can convince Pyeongyang and Washington to create constructive dialogue among the United States and the two Koreas?
2005 is the pivotal year for the Korean economy. We are standing at the crossroads faced with either falling back or making a leap. In order to concentrate our energy on an economic comeback, we must stop taking sides and start the politics of integration and tolerance. We should drastically change the direction of the state administration so that the focus of reform is to maximize growth, efficiency and competitiveness.
2005 is the centennial of the Protectorate Treaty between Korea and Japan. Once again, the Korean Peninsula is in jeopardy as the neighboring giants are vying to secure their interests.
In international relations, bluffing can destroy the fate of a nation. Based on the geopolitical condition and power dynamics, we should think realistically and strategically to attain our national interest. By narrowing the gap between the fast-changing realities of the world and Korea, we should re-establish national security, economy and identity in 2005.
The crowing of the rooster on New Year’s Day has the power of thrusting out the darkness. Sixty years ago, Koreans shook off the dark days of colonization. In 2005, we need a diplomatic strategist with a keen sense of international relations and utilitarian thinking, like Seo Hui of the Goryeo Dynasty.
In the game of diplomacy with Washington, the best card in our hand is the troops dispatch to Iraq. It might not be a coincidence that the nickname of the first military engineering unit that has been sent to Iraq is Seo Hui.
* The writer is the editor in chief of the monthly publication NEXT. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Byun Sang-keun
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