[OUTLOOK]Outside talent vital to Korea’s futureWhat do Marco Polo, Fryderyk Chopin, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso have in common? They all left their fatherlands. Polo spent 17 years at the court of Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan Dynasty.
Chopin of Poland and Picasso of Spain, although from different times, both left their homes and spent their best working years in Paris, France. Einstein was born in Germany but escaped from the Nazis and settled in the United States. He worked there and died as an American.
Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty, France and the United States had strong magnets that attracted the gifted and talented from around the world. Geniuses have always flocked to open societies where they could compete against other talented people.
In the 21st century, global competition is about attracting talent from around the world, as well as attracting foreign capital. One of the major reasons for the U.S. global leadership is that the country draws the smartest youth from every continent and uses these people effectively. Korea should also set its course in this direction in order to prepare for a more progressive and active future.
The future of a country depends on whether it is experiencing a brain drain, in which it loses its most talented people, or whether it is attracting talent from other countries. For instance, in Haiti and Jamaica, 80 percent of college graduates leave their homelands. Many talented people from Russia and Eastern Europe have already moved to Western Europe.
Iceland was once an underdeveloped country but it implemented an open policy for immigrants and opened its doors wide to educated people from outside. As a result, the country has achieved the second-highest economic growth rate in the European Union, after Luxembourg.
Until now, we have been proud of Koreans going overseas and becoming famous in other countries. But we have to take one step further. We should make detailed and organized plans to attract great people from abroad.
In Korea, countless non-Koreans have already begun working in industries. Racial and cultural diversity has been expanded through international marriages.
But quickly attracting large numbers of immigrants to meet economic or social demands will only result in problems in the future, such as the conflict between Caucasians and Afro-Americans in the United States and immigrant uprisings in France.
Humans are not like dispensable items that one can buy cheaply and then throw away. We can learn a lesson from the experiences and histories of other countries; the core of a successful immigration policy is to guarantee cultural homogeneity.
Thus, we need to take into account the changes in the populace, the speed of aging of our populace, the transformation of economic structures and our social and cultural capacities before designing an immigration policy.
When this type of immigration policy, coupled with a policy to promote larger families, is pursued with a clear target and a blueprint, our country will be on solid ground to survive global competition in the 21st century.
For instance, in China and Southeast Asia, diligent and ambitious young people are abundant and they want to become successful.
We can grant them residence and working permits if they attain a certain level of education. We can say educated foreigners need to pass a difficult Korean test if they want to immigrate to Korea. Through these measures, we can turn , meaning the Korean cultural wave, a temporary cultural phenomenon, into Korean dreams.
Our birth rate is one of the lowest in the world while the populace is aging faster than in other countries. So, we need new and young blood. We should debate the future of our country.
We should ask ourselves a question: Should we perish clinging to our old identity that emphasizes the past and bloodlines? Or, should we build an open society that advances toward the future and enhances diversity?
*The writer is a professor of political science at Soongsil University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Cho Hong-sik