[WIDE INTERVIEW]Lessons to learn from European UnionThe “SNU-KIEP EU Center” opened on April 20 at Seoul National University. Kim Cae-One, a visiting professor at the university’s Graduate School of International Studies was a founder of the center and is the first chairman of its governing board.
Mr. Kim studied in Brussels, Belgium, during the 1960s and is one of Korea’s best-known experts on the European Union. He has publicly expressed his firm belief in economic integration.
The center was jointly established by the European Commission, the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University and the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP). Its intended purpose is to promote and enhance awareness of the EU and its policies, as well as to develop education and research on European Studies in Korea.
The EU provided 900 million won ($956,000) for the center’s first three-and-a-half years of operation and Seoul National University and the KIEP provided 450 million won each. When that contract expires, the EU has committed to pay half of the operating costs, while the university and the institute will each pay 25 percent.
Although the center was established at Seoul National University, it is not exclusively for Seoul National University students. The administrators plan to select 70 to 80 college and graduate school students nationwide as beneficiaries of its scholarship program this year and send them to the EU for three to six months of study. It also plans to provide courses on European Studies and set up dual degree programs with member countries of the EU.
In summer, the center will also offer discussion sessions for graduate school students from South Korea, China and Japan, on the possible economic integration of the three countries.
In an interview with Mr. Kim on April 17, this JoongAng Ilbo reporter asked why an EU center is needed in Korea.
“What would the world have been like if it had not been for the EU?” Mr. Kim responded immediately. “We don’t know anything about the EU.”
“If not for the EU, Europe would not enjoy such peace and prosperity as it does now,” he continued. “The United States would also have played a bigger role in international politics.”
The EU’s fundamental goal, Mr. Kim said, is to contribute to world peace by integrating European countries’ economies. The center was established to enable Koreans to learn about the EU and help them expand their perspectives to better understand the world.
Mr. Kim said that Korea should especially refer to the market-oriented economies of the United States and the EU in its social development and globalization processes.
“The EU, like the United States, promotes maximizing economic interests and efficiency by unifying the market, but the EU is distinctively different from the United States since it is based on a “community spirit,’” Mr. Kim said.
The EU constitution says that the countries pursue a “social market,” which seeks a middle path between socialism and capitalism, and which aims at maintaining a balance between a high rate of economic growth and public welfare by using state intervention.
Q. What is “harmonious development”?
A. The [European] Union’s aim is to promote peace. We have to look at the Europeans’ continuous efforts to maintain peace for the last 50 years. Harmonious development emphasizes competition among countries in the union while minimizing the side effects of such competition.
The EU center plans to precisely introduce such processes of economic and political integration. Besides the integration of the market, the Union has established currency, trade and agricultural policies for 25 member countries. In addition, the fact that the 25 member states jointly make decisions regarding most economic policies has already been an important research topic in social sciences. We also hope to help the economic integration of East Asian countries, especially among South Korea, Japan and China.
The United States leads the world. Why don’t we study more about the United States?
The two poles that maintain and improve the world economy are the United States and the EU. Without understanding the EU, we cannot understand the international community. We have neglected the EU while the United States and the EU have been playing power games with each other. We should watch and learn from the United States that values market competition the most but also know about the EU’s consideration for market equality.
In terms of the volume of trade between South Korea and European countries, the EU is also very important.
What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement?
Basically, I support a free trade agreement. To sign the agreement, we should first learn more about the agreement. There are many different kinds of free trade agreements with different levels of market opening. The United States had been preparing for an agreement with South Korea by strategically facilitating agreements with other countries. But, how well have we prepared? A lot of work should first be done internally. We should also consider the political, diplomatic and cultural aspects of our counterpart. In that sense, it is worth considering a low level of market opening through a free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States.
What is your perspective on the economic integration of East Asian countries?
I hope South Korea, Japan and China would set up a free trade zone ― an integration of markets like the EU. Then, East Asia will have economic and cultural power, equal to those of the United States and the EU. Such an agreement would not be easy. South Korea can work as a mediator among the three countries, like Belgium does in the EU.
by Bae Young-dae