[OUTLOOK]Pagoda’s secret is a guide on the FTA

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[OUTLOOK]Pagoda’s secret is a guide on the FTA

The controversy surrounding the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States is heating up. If we fail to extinguish the fumes, we will have further difficulties in the future.
Civic groups have divided into two countermeasure groups to prepare to oppose the talks. The press and media outlets have failed to lend a hand in finding a solution for the ever-deepening polarity between those in favor and those against the trade talks.
The same applies for scholars in related fields. Even the groups that will drive the talks, such as the Blue House, National Assembly and other working-level ministries, are all beating around the bush.
The proposed FTA between Seoul and Washington is not only a trade pact, but an agreement that may determine Korea’s fate on the international stage in the 21st century.
That is why it is essential for Korea to attend both international and domestic negotiations with a proper vision.
It is not the first time in the nation’s history that we have come to such crossroads.
Back in the summer of 1880, a major debate rose after Kim Hong-jip returned from Japan with a book titled Joseonchaengnyak (Strategem on Korea), which was written by a Chinese diplomat and discussed possible diplomatic policies for Joseon. Confucians and reformists stood on opposite ends on whether to open Joseon's gates to the world.
During the hectic period, even the royal court became divided.
As a result, King Kojong had to declare a decree to quiet down the Confucians in 1881 and send a message to reformists in 1882, shortly after the Imo Military Rebellion, which broke out to stop the reform.
As a result of the internal disorder, Joseon failed to embrace globalism at international standards and had to go through its own “lost 10 years” after the Gapshin coup d’etat in 1884, eventually seeing its fortunes decline.
The phenomenon was the result of the country being bogged down in the polarization debates between the Confucians and reformists, instead of going with King Kojong’s plans of opening the gates of Joseon according to its own ideas.
If Korea wants to avoid the tragedy it experienced more than 100 years ago, it needs to take note of the secret behind the Dabo Pagoda in Bulguk Temple.
The Dabo Pagoda was the most perfect and beautiful stupa ever built in the past 2,500 years to incarnate a tower in order to store Buddah’s sarira as depicted in the Lotus Sutra.
Upon looking at the pagoda, one cannot help but fall in love with the beauty of its composite space, which is exquisitely formed by the squares, octagons and circles on the masterpiece.
The craftsmen of the Unified Shilla era perfectly shaped the compositeness into a concrete form 1,250 years ago. The compositeness is a word that can single-handedly describe the phenomenon in the 21st century.
For Korean people, whose ancestors were able to perfectly express the concept, their future is bright if they can adopt it for the 21st century.
The future of Korea relies on how quickly we can shift our focus from the social polarization to compositeness.
As long as we look on the FTA talks with divided views on globalization, it will be difficult to come up with a compromise in both domestic and international politics.
The compositeness in Dabo Pagoda embraces globalization, localization and intelligence.
In proceeding with FTA negotiations with Washington, the government must show how it will negotiate with the U.S. on a global scale, while sorting out the various interests of domestic political groups.
The controversy in political circles, civic groups and in the press must also overcome the current paradigm and move on to the compositeness.
As the descendants of the Shilla craftsmen, there is no reason to believe that it is an impossible task.
From a narrower viewpoint, the talks are a life or death matter for President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration and something that will determine the nation’s fate from a wider viewpoint.
If Korea wants to secure the semi finals or go further up not only in the World Cup of soccer but also in the World Cup of national charm and happiness, it must transfer its focus to compositeness as swiftly as possible.
The polarization between the globalization and the anti-globalization views, and between the haves and have-nots should be stopped.
Now it’s time to follow the synergy effect which derives from the compositeness that flourished in the Dabo Pagoda a long time ago on this very Korean peninsula.

* The writer is a professor of international politics at Seoul National University.


by Ha Young-sun
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