[VIEWPOINT]Korea can offer ‘package deal’ for oil

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea can offer ‘package deal’ for oil

The whole world is busy talking about oil. To make matters worse, the price of Dubai crude on the international market has been hovering around $70 per barrel.
President Hu Jintao of China went around the globe three times to secure enough oil to sustain the growth of the Chinese economy. President George W. Bush of the United States started a war and President Evo Morales of Bolivia nationalized the country’s oil and gas industries.
Such an atmosphere gives us the impression that the whole world is using diplomacy and politics to secure oil and natural resources. It seems that the world is possessed by the ghost of oil and lives to get oil alone. The diplomatic activities of the heads of states are generally interpreted in relation to natural resources and oil.
Korea’s diplomacy is no exception. President Roh Moo-hyun has already paid visits to countries with natural resources and energy.
The countries in Africa, Central Asia, South America and the Middle East are not places former Korean presidents often visited. On Sunday, he started another round of visits, to Mongolia, the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade calls the presidential visits this time diplomacy to secure energy and natural resources.
Due to the nature of oil-dependent countries, it is important for each country to secure stable energy resources.
But Korea is not equipped with the capital and the reputation as a whole, compared to other major players on world stage.
The more we secure natural resources and energy, the better it will be.
But Korea does not have the ability to invest in all the oil fields and various mines in places such as Central Asia, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Sakhalin, Azerbaijan, South America and Africa.
Therefore, it is crucial to select the most favorable spots carefully and concentrate our energy accordingly. In that sense, the so-called “package deal” strategy to explore friendly resource-rich countries is worth considering.
In that deal, we would help resource-rich countries with our experience in establishing information technology and our economic know-how.
That strategy is essentially to supplement our weakness in competing with the countries that are more financially affluent.
There is one more way we can maximize our competitiveness.
The resource-rich countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus are newly emerging nations. They are determined not to lose their national independence again, and they both share a rich culture and a long history.
Of course, there are customs and religious traditions that are similar to ours. People who have visited places such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Azerbeijan and Russia, especially Siberia, must have recognized it. Therefore Korea’s competitiveness will grow even bigger if we manage a meticulous diplomacy based not only on economic power, but also on our shared history and culture.
Azerbaijan, which the president of Korea will visit for the first time in history, has a past that is similar to Korea.
The country has been invaded by the Mongols, Islamic countries and the Soviet Union, but it has hung on to a long history and cultural traditions that are very much alive even today, Many worldly prominent figures lived there.
The most renowned is Zarathustra, founder of Zoroasterism. He was born again through “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and Nobel Laureate in Physics Lev Landow are from Azerbaijan. The English word mania has its root in Azerbaijani. It originates from the word meaning the followers of the teachings of Mani.
The story does not stop there. Prometheus, the Greek god who gave fire to humans, was shackled to the side of a crag in the Caucasian valley for stealing the sacred fire from Zeus. And today’s Baku is the place where Prometheus gave humans the benefit of fire. Alexandre Dumas called it the region of “immortal fire.”
Nowadays, the whole world competitively sends friendly diplomatic gestures to countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus region, aiming at the natural resources there.
Korea also tries to win the favor of these countries, so it can secure enough resources to keep growing its economy and consolidating the political development it has achieved in the past.
If Korea becomes a country of dignity that does not rely only on its economic power, but runs a diplomacy based on culture and history, while proposing a “package deal” of combining Korea’s know-how on information technology, construction and economic development, Korea can maintain competitiveness in the region.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Seok-hwan
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