[FOUNTAIN]Roh’s words will matter

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[FOUNTAIN]Roh’s words will matter

It was in the late 1990s when the term “word politics” appeared in Japan. The originator of the term was Akihiko Tanaka, a professor at the University of Tokyo and a renowned scholar of international politics in Japan. He coined the term based on questions and answers regarding East Asian politics at the time. For example, is the relationship between the United States, Japan and China similar to the wars among the Three Kingdoms in ancient China? No, there is no such confrontation. Then is it a love triangle? Some allegorize that an attractive mistress, namely China, appears to the United States, which has long been married to Japan, and the United States leaves the wife for the mistress. However, that is certainly not the case because the purpose of a nation is not love.
Then how can the relationship among the three countries be defined? It is complex. Often, they invite other families to their multilateral consultative meetings. East Asia is a gigantic society. At these meetings, eloquence often helps people and nations stand out. The elements that contribute to powerful speech are ideas, expression, persuasion and presentation. In his book, “Word Politics,” Mr. Tanaka suggests that the power of words is what Japan lacks the most in diplomacy.
That does not mean that Mr. Tanaka overlooks the political influence of power and money. While military and economic power are crucial, he suggests that the power of speech is becoming more important, especially in a world of tightly intertwined nations.
In 2000, the Obuchi government included the reinforcement of word politics in a report entitled “Japan’s Vision in the 21st Century.”
The power of words is an extension of soft power advocated by Joseph Nye, the dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The key is the power of persuasion ― to bring others to your side not with carrots and sticks but with ideas and charm. Mr. Nye claimed in an article contributed to Foreign Affairs in 2004 that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld does not even understand the term soft power.
Korean diplomacy is at a crossroads. The citizens do not buy all of the explanations given by the government regarding the adjustment of the alliance with the United States or negotiations for a free trade agreement.
Tomorrow morning, presidents Roh Moo-hyun and George W. Bush will meet to discuss many critical issues. What is the plan for Mr. Roh?
I hope he displays a power of words as strong as the Korean military and economic power that he repeatedly praises.


by Oh Young-hwan

The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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