[Outlook]Fortune favors the braveFor some people, life always turns out well. They are not smarter or harder working than others, but things still go smoothly for them. They are lucky. People with religious convictions call this divine intervention. As we live in a tough world, we all want to be blessed with good fortune.
The same applies to countries. Some cannot avoid war, disease or poverty while other nations live in peace without worrying about food or other basic necessities. People born in countries bedeviled by misfortune have no choice but to endure hardship, regardless of the will or effort of individual citizens. On the other hand, in lucky countries, all the people enjoy the blessings that are endowed upon their nation.
Is Korea a lucky country? When looking back over the past 50 years, since our independence from Japanese occupation, Korea seems truly blessed, which is a miracle. The country was on the verge of becoming a communist state due to the Korean War, but fortunately we had Syngman Rhee as our leader. When the United States was reluctant to intervene further on the Korean Peninsula, he negotiatedd a joint Korea-U.S. defense treaty and ensured that U.S. troops stayed longer.
If South Korea had become a communist nation, we would not have the prosperity that we now enjoy. South Korea used to be one of the world’s poorest countries, but it has surpassed over one hundred nations in five decades to become one of the top 15 economies. No other country has achieved so much in such a short time. A list of the luckiest countries from the past 50 years would have to include South Korea.
However, there have recently been some signs that our blessings are running out. The incumbent administration seemed anxious to throw away any blessings that came its way. Some politicians appear determined to transform Korea into the world’s least fortunate country. The economy seems to have hit a dead end. China is rising rapidly and Japan is restoring its reputation as an economic powerhouse. But South Korea has not sought further change.
The balance in international relations also seems to be moving against us. The Bush administration once said that it would never compromise over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions but it has now changed its stance. The United States is not the ally it was. It seems that South Korea is no longer getting the consideration it deserves from its old friend.
As for the economy, we seem to be at an impasse and people are worried that South Korea will now falter, after having a 10-year peak.
The riptides of history are threatening to grab Korea by its ankles and drag it under. There are only two choices; we succumb, or we change our ways and prosper. If we tear down our trading barriers and survive the competition with the United States, we will become strong enough to beat any country in the world.
The free trade agreement gives economic benefits to both the United States and South Korea. We need to understand that luck is a question of preparation meeting opportunity. All our citizens must now be prepared to change and innovate to raise our productivity. Then we can capitalize on the chance we have been given.
The FTA is an economic agreement, but it has security ramifications. We cannot assume the United States will defend us, as we have done in the past, but increased economic cooperation will enhance the security ties between the two countries. Increased trade will strengthen an alliance that has been weakening. In this sense, the free trade pact offers a new breakthrough for us.
President Roh Moo-hyun, who has been the most anti-American president in our country’s history, signed the free trade accord with Washington. That is like the former U.S. President Richard Nixon normalizing ties with China, even though he was a staunch anti-communist. These paradoxes are both miracles, especially the former.
Its hard to fathom Roh’s decision when one looks at his past history. Roh has been constantly criticized for employing too many people who shared his political convictions and ideologies. But he betrayed his own political base when the time came to sign the trade pact.
For politicians, betraying their base is often political suicide. That’s why leaders who care more about the broad interests of their nation, rather than the narrow concerns of their ideological base, are called statesmen rather than politicians. Judged by his record Roh was the least likely president to turn into a statesman but, at the crucial moment, he did. And that’s proof that our country is still lucky.
Fortunate people are afraid of nothing. They are convinced that they are meant to enjoy their blessings. If we have faith that our country is lucky, there is nothing to fear. There is no reason for countries with good luck to be afraid of countries with bad luck. We should be generous and share our blessings with them.
We should be generous and tolerant inside our country as well. There are people who have opposed a free trade agreement with Washington. But let’s be generous enough to believe that, thanks to them, our negotiation team had advantages.
Those who profit from the free trade agreement with Washington should be willing to assist those who are damaged by it. If we are prepared to be brave, we will see that our blessed country is endowed with even more good fortune.
*The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk