[Outlook] Send out Seoul

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[Outlook] Send out Seoul

A sinking ship is sending an emergency SOS. It is pitch-dark, stormy and a strong wind is sweeping across the sea. The sailors desperately try to save their ship and themselves. But their efforts are not enough. They need help.
So they send out an SOS. “Save Our Souls” or “Send Out Someone.”
However, SOS did not originate from these phrases.
When sailors needed rescuing on the ocean, they used flags or lights to signal distress. In the late 1890s, wireless telegraphy became commonplace, and a Morse code message of three dots, three dashes and three dots became the worldwide emergency signal because it was easy to recognize.
In international Morse code, three dots stand for the letter S and three dashes make the letter O, so the signal was simply called SOS, an easy way to remember the sequence of dots and dashes.
It has become an emergency call.
There are two things that a captain must do in case of an emergency.
First, he must order his sailors to use every available means to save the ship. They cannot and should not just wait for rescue. They must do everything in their power to help themselves.
It is necessary and natural that they try to save themselves before anyone comes to save them.
That way, even if the worst occurs, damage can be minimized.
At the same time, the captain must send an SOS. Unless he sends the emergency signal, it is hard for people on other ships or on shore to know that the vessel is in a state of emergency. He must let others know exactly what the problem is and where they are. Then the rescue can be effective.
Otherwise, rescuers might come with only drinking water when the vessel needs fuel.
This is the same for North Korea. Its economy is still in very bad shape.
Last year, it had negative growth for the first time in seven years. The positive growth the North had before was mostly thanks to outside assistance, not its own strength.
North Korea should have made efforts to help itself but it doesn’t seem to have done so.
The Paris Declaration was endorsed in March 2005 by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, in order to enhance aid effectiveness.
The Paris Declaration states that ownership by receiving countries is the most important factor because aid effectiveness is maximized when countries who receive assistance have a strong sense of being responsible for helping themselves.
North Korea has not sent an SOS to the outside world. We know that North Korea’s economy is in a bad situation, but we do not know exactly how bad because the North stopped releasing economic statistics in the mid-1960s.
It does not publicize what it lacks in what fields, but only demands investment.
International financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, require that developing countries submit statistical data and cooperate with research into their situation before they receive assistance.
The institutions can develop useful assistance programs only when they properly understand the receiving countries’ situation.
In short, in terms of its economy, a country’s efforts on its own behalf take the form of reform, and an SOS is a way of opening its doors.
Hu Jintao, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, stated that implementing reform and opening its doors were a great revolution for China and were the only ways the country could develop.
He said this on Oct. 15 during the political briefing at the party’s 17th National Congress.
But North Korea is reluctant to carry out reform and open its doors. It made South Korea’s president feel awkward when he pointed out the necessity of those steps during the recent summit meeting.
If we provide assistance to North Korea under these circumstances, we can have only a limited impact. After the summit between South and North Korea, debates are animated about providing assistance to the North so it can develop its social overhead capital.
But what’s most important is that North Korea makes efforts on its own behalf and sends out an SOS if it still cannot reach certain levels of achievement.
A ministerial meeting between South and North Korea will be held in two weeks.
At the meeting, North Korea must say “Save Our State” and “Send Out Seoul.”

*The writer is a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Cho Dong-ho
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