[Viewpoint]The future of Korea is easy; to seaOn a world map, the Korean Peninsula looks like an appendix dangling off one corner of the Chinese continent. If we turn the map upside down, however, we find that the peninsula is at a central position, from which we can reach almost all corners of the world via the Pacific Ocean.
From the tip of the Korean Peninsula, which sticks out from China spearheaded by the Mount Paektu chain of mountains in the background, the Pacific is wide open. Thus, we find that the peninsula is situated at an ideal spot, even in view of feng shui. Although the Korean Peninsula looks like a dangling appendix when it is seen from the continent, it is situated at a most ideal location when viewed from the ocean.
Although we, Koreans, have lived in a strategically beneficial place throughout history, we did not know its value in the past.
If we had known, we would have advanced into the ocean. During the period of the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. 668 A.D.), Koreans had advanced into the continent and dominated a large part of Manchuria. After the fall of Goguryeo, however, Koreans had to live within the bounds of the peninsula, which they’ve done for the past 1,300 years.
Korea is no longer the nation that had great impact on mainland China under the leadership of Gojumong, the legendary founder of Goguryeo, and General Yeongaesomun, who defeated Tang Dynasty invasions five times.
Reflecting on our ancient history, we find almost no occasion in which Korea gained any benefit from advancing into the continent.
On the other hand, we have built today’s Korea by advancing into the ocean during the past half-century.
We were also able to throw off the yoke of poverty, which troubled our ancestors during the past 5,000 years, and become the 11th-largest trading economy in the world.
In addition, we have accomplished the monumental achievement of exporting $300 billion last year, thanks to our advancement into the ocean. Moreover, Korea is now the largest shipbuilding country in the world.
After all, Korea is more the country of Jangbogo and Admiral Yi Sun-sin than the country of Gojumong and Yeongaesomun. Jangbogo was the king of the sea, dominating trade on the waters of East Asia about 1,200 years ago by establishing a naval base at Cheonghaejin, today’s Wando Island off the coast of South Jeolla province.
During the period when people took it for granted and accepted as their fate that their lives were reliant on the continent, Cheonghaejin was nothing but a home for low-income fishermen.
However, seen from the point of view of today and the future, the Korean Peninsula’s strategic position will only be an advantage when we go forth into the ocean. Jangbogo must be a “great pioneer” who proved historically the ways that will make us live well.
That is not all. Admiral Yi saved the nation from Japanese invasion.
On April 14, 1592, the Japanese invaders occupied Busan within a day after landing at the Busan port. Encouraged by their victory, the Japanese advanced to the neighboring town of Dongnae and started to move northward following three different invasion routes.
King Seonjo, who was surprised at the speed of the invading Japanese army, fled to Uiju 15 days after the Japanese attack.
In the course of seven years of war against Japan, the country was ruined and the people were devastated. If it were not for Admiral Yi and the sea, the history of the Joseon dynasty would have ended there.
Since ancient times, countries that have prospered in the Chinese mainland did not last long.
Each of the Chinese dynasties lasted no longer than two or three hundred years.
Even the empire built by Genghis Khan was no exception. On the other hand, the countries that developed near the sea and advanced into the ocean prospered for a long time and created new civilizations.
The Roman Empire and the United Kingdom are prime examples. The Roman Empire, in particular, left its mark on history because it advanced into the Mediterranean instead of confining itself to the Italian Peninsula.
In that sense, there are ample reasons and justification for Yeosu to be the host to the 2012 World Expo.
The 2012 World Expo in Yeosu will provide Korea a chance to declare again that Korea is a country of Jangbogo and Admiral Yi Sun-sin and advance into the ocean once again.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong