[EDITORIALS]Selling Korea as a hub for AsiaThe European Union’s Chamber of Commerce in Korea severely criticized Seoul’s policy to develop the nation into an economic hub of Northeast Asia. Frans Hampsink, chamber president, said on Wednesday, “The piecemeal opening of several localized free economic zones within Korea is far from sufficient to make foreign direct investment here an alternative to investing in China.” He also said, “We think that the Northeast Asia hub, a project which appears to be Korea’s only strategic response to counter the rise of China, is an ‘ad-hoc’ initiative.”
A similar conclusion was also reached last week. The IBM Institute for Business Value’s poll of global chief executives about their recognition of Asia-Pacific countries was grim for Korea. According to the poll, Korea is neither a country that will lead the growth of the Asia-Pacific region nor a developed country leading innovation. China, India, Singapore and Hong Kong are, it said. Such judgments hurt our feelings but should not be ignored. Even if we declare our intent to become a Northeast Asian hub, it will just be silly talk if foreign companies ignore it. We should first figure out why the top projects of Roh Moo-hyun’s administration are ridiculed.
It is said that the press conference by the EU chamber seemed to be held to censure the Korean government. Though the Korean government has promised one-stop services for foreign investors, that goal has never been realized, the European businessmen said. They also said that they had to repeat the same explanations to Korean government officials, because the officials are frequently replaced. The businessmen also complained that they have had to release the same 300-page trade barriers report over the last seven to eight years, adding that they were disappointed because the Korean government took no countermeasures.
Korea can’t turn the entire country into a free-trade zone as the chamber wants. But the potential of Korea, such as the high-quality workforce, should not be undervalued. We should recognize that foreign companies are consistently pointing out the complicated regulations and red tape as problems. If our bureaucracy and restrictive systems are changed, the potential to be the hub of region will be enhanced. We have no choice but to develop as a hub in order to survive. The government and officials should be armed with a business-oriented mind before clinging to a large-scale project.