[Viewpoint]Peace begins at home

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[Viewpoint]Peace begins at home

When one is surrounded by financial instability, it might seem like a luxury, but now is the time to contemplate the days after the crisis. It is no coincidence that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was seen carrying around Fareed Zakaria’s “Post-American World” last summer. Recently, President Lee Myung-bak made a comment that gives us a clue about the post-crisis order. First, he proposed a finance ministerial meeting among Korea, Japan and China to plan a joint response to market instability. He also suggested creating a joint fund of $80 billion to stabilize the market.

While Beijing and Tokyo have not yet responded to President Lee, the proposal could be a key to unlock regional cooperation that will be gradually reinforced. Since the uncomfortable relationship between China and Japan is a secret everyone knows, there is certainly a possibility that Korea could take the lead in regional cooperation in Northeast Asia. In the long history of Europe’s integration, countries like the Netherlands and Italy played the role of intermediary to control the rivalry between Germany and France and managed to set the pace.

It might sound ironic given the current instability, but please allow me to be overly optimistic and say we have the chance to set the pace for political cooperation in East Asia. We cannot call the so-called Seoul Consensus a pipe dream. Korea could take the initiative in proposing and providing a framework for the direction of financial, trade, cultural and technological cooperation.

The Seoul Consensus is surely a long-term project that would go 20 to 30 years into the future, and I believe that the project must start by looking back at our reality.

Although we don’t know what President Lee Myung-bak intended with his remark or his specific plans, we will likely face two kinds of obstacles in the course of promoting the plan. The first is policy making dominated by partisan views and the other is the newly emerging conflict between expansionism and pacifism.

Let’s look at the partisan issue first. As we have seen in the controversy over strengthening regulations on real-name use in cyberspace and the ratification discussion for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, we have reached a point where we look at all the issues we can think of in partisan terms. Of course, partisan competition is the engine of and prerequisite for a dynamic democracy.

However, as we’ve been a democracy for the last two decades, factions are sucking up political and social issues like a great black hole. There is little room for bipartisan or moderate thinking even for North Korea policy, which determines the identity of Korea, and education policy, which determines Korea’s future.

While politics ruled by factions might be dynamic, we will miss out on precious accomplishments. When policies are swayed by partisan bickering, it is impossible to create consistent, long-term strategic plans. Since regional cooperation requires a long-term perspective, the partisan black hole will be a gigantic obstacle.

Another obstruction is the conflict between expansionism and pacifism, which is growing more evident every day. As Korea makes the leap to being one of the world’s top 10 economies, the “resistant nationalism” of the past will likely become an “expansionist nationalism.” Only 10 years ago, we were comforted by the athletic accomplishments of Park Se-ri and Park Chan-ho. Now, we celebrate the influence of the Korean Wave sweeping Asia. An impressive number of missionary workers are working all over the world, and the government is considering the dispatch of 100,000 Internet evangelists, who promote knowledge about the Internet.

The frequency of proxy cyber wars is also increasing surrounding various issues ?? the Dokdo issue with the Japanese and ancient Korean history with Chinese who argue that Goguryeo was a part of China’s history.

At the same time, the pacifist trend is becoming more distinct. Based on the outcome of the Sunshine Policy, international alliances and the emergence of the post-democracy generation, pacifism has made constant progress. The heated debate over the troop dispatch to Iraq and PSI participation herald increasing friction.

In conclusion, the more urgent of the two obstacles is the partisan issue. When we think about the common good, we will be able to find solutions to the conflict between expansionism and pacifism. Here, the roles of journalists, intellectuals and cyber commentators to supervise and check up on politicians is more important than the work of politicians themselves.

When they make room for moderation instead of partisan views, we can prepare the groundwork for consensus at home and abroad.


*The writer is a professor of political science at Chung-Ang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Jaung Hoon
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