[Letter to the editor]A hopeful note
Last semester, thanks to a school-visiting program, I had a chance to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in central Seoul. There was a brief lecture about Mofat, explaining what it does in the field and its plans to help accomplish free trade agreements and regional integration.
Their main statement was “the more FTAs, the better.” Indeed, with the flow of globalization, it will definitely be good for Korea both economically and politically in the future.
However, is it really the best strategy for Korea? Reflecting Korea’s current situation ― that is, the so-called the crisis of being sandwiched between Japan and China ― Japan is recovering economically as the world’s second-largest economy and China is following closely behind as it prepares to host a huge global festival, the 2008 Olympics.
Let’s think and ask ourselves: What really benefits Korea? Are we actually heading in the right direction?
Last week, Korea inked a free trade deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, during the Asean + 3 Summit. It is indeed a good sign of progress for Korea since it will boost and consolidate economic alliances with Southeast Asian countries. Moreover, Korea currently has FTAs with Chile, Singapore and the European Free Trade Association.
Also, a free trade deal with the United States is now awaiting National Assembly ratification. Despite some accusations that Korea yielded too much to the U.S. in the agreement, Korea’s negotiating ability and tactics have, in fact, improved.
Based on its negotiating ability and strong position in East Asia, Korea can be expected to take the lead in the ongoing debates about economic integration in East Asia. Thus, Korea should move forward and be prepared for the next move.
On the other hand, as a student myself, seeing university students looking for safe jobs and scrambling to study for employment examinations, I start to wonder where are the creativity, pursuit of learning and real meaning of education are. With the future uncertain, people living around the world begin to worry and want to feel safe and protected. And it is the role and duty of government and politicians to fulfill the needs of their people. For now, we are in desperate need of an accelerator to trigger new economic growth engines and cast away the shadow of Japan and China from Korea.
Some say with the flow of the global economy and fierce competition, Korea really needs a socially sustainable economy. In the global era, high growth doesn’t directly mean a rise in employment. So, we need to take a close look at the social system of growth rather than the growth itself. Every candidate for president focuses on high economic growth and pledges to the public they will achieve it. But we will not know until the next presidential election.
The future of Korea might seem uncertain, but we need to face it with courage and patience. Now, here is the last question I would like to ask. With the upcoming presidential elections, what kind of leader do you really want?
Having witnessed the passion of the government for advancing the nation’s goals during the visiting program, I have hope the next president will make Korea a better place to live.
Park Eun-hye, a college student in Seoul
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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