[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Slow down and consider all sides of FTAThe Korean experience is often cited as a perfect model for how fast a country can change. A common example is the phenomenal spread of Internet use across the country.
According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, Korea is the second-most wired country in the world.
As the survey shows, Koreans are quick to accept and fast to adjust to change. Because of these tendencies, Korea has become the favorite test market for many international companies to try out their products.
This is one of this country’s strengths. But I feel that we should also be more careful about opening ourselves too quickly to “globalized” values.
Despite its long history, Korea is a young, vulnerable country in which people can easily get lost in floods of information and diversities of views.
As a college student, I see this happening around me, from the trivial ― new trends from abroad ― to the big issues.
For instance, I see how naively some young Koreans view the controversial free trade agreement being negotiated between Korea and the United States.
Recently at my school our class was discussing a financial news article about the projected U.S.-Korea FTA.
My professor said that in the long run the two countries will conclude the agreement because it is supposed to improve national competitiveness and that’s what the government wants.
But the article had expressed doubts: “Despite the national competitiveness we can expect in the long run, the problem is that we are short of the professional manpower we need to negotiate this issue well against the other country.”
On the topic, “What can Korea do when it cannot avoid the negotiation table anymore?” we talked about alternative scenarios, as well as the pros and cons of free trade agreements.
If Korea and the United States conclude an FTA, Korea expects to gain easier access to the American market, and in return see cheaper imported agricultural products and services from international financial firms.
If more foreign corporations merge with Korean enterprises, we would probably see a lot more foreign goods than Korean goods in the domestic market.
At this point, I realized that I was worried.
I am not an ultranationalist. But considering the tendency among Koreans ― especially young Koreans ― for “fast acclimation,” domestic trends would change radically once an FTA is concluded.
We would be eating American rice, depositing money at foreign banks and shopping for home technologies developed in Silicon Valley.
I am sure that many “open-minded” people would like to live in a globalized country. But in the long run, being globalized would make the country more dependent on foreign goods and services ― which means it will become less independent. I think it is important for students like me to think carefully and reasonably about the effects of free trade agreements before they subscribe to the voices of a few that only advocate the positive effects of being open.
Slow down and give it a second thought.
* The writer is the editor of The Soongsil Times, an English newspaper of Soongsil University.
by Park Sung-jeong