[Outlook]Seeking the summit

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[Outlook]Seeking the summit

Long ago, a leading figure of the opposition party told me a surprising private story while under the influence of alcohol about some unethical behavior by the then president. The following day, I went to see him to confirm his story. But all he had to say about the matter was, “Who cares?”

As I tried to laugh off his words, I had the unpleasant experience of losing all trust in him.

On National Foundation Day on Oct. 3, an urgent meeting, presided over by the president, was held in the morning at the Blue House to examine the nation’s economic situation. Although it was a holiday, all the economy-related ministers and senior secretaries, including the prime minister, attended.

At a press conference after the four-hour conference, a Blue House spokesman said, “Asia is the growth engine for the world, but there is an indication that the recent American financial turmoil is perhaps more of a trigger than the fundamental cause behind the fact that the world is rapidly adjusting to the sagging economy. The best option would be to hold a Korea?China?Japan financial summit in an effort to bolster cooperation with the countries in the region.”

There were many problematic aspects to the announcement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the minister of which was not present at the meeting, was faced with a busier schedule than ever, as it had to conduct preliminary discussions through diplomatic channels to achieve the goal of holding the Northeast Asia summit. With no advance information about the proposal, the Foreign Ministry was busy running all over the place, trying to get a grip on the president’s true intentions.

Two days later, the deputy minister of the Strategy and Finance Ministry held an urgent press briefing to explain the follow-up measures that would be taken to promote the meeting of Asian financial ministers. But he was talking in circles, saying, “I understand that the president is encouraging us to seek broader countermeasures against the Asian financial turmoil through the concerted leadership of the three nations.” “The Chinese finance minister is not scheduled to attend the general meeting of the International Monetary Fund slated to open soon, and the Japanese finance minister is only expected to be present at the G?7 meeting for half a day. Thus, it is unlikely we will be able to encourage the financial ministers of the three nations to hold talks at the IMF general meeting.” And “We plan to take the preparatory measure of holding a vice-ministerial meeting.”

We have heard no news about the summit.

Earlier in the day on On Oct. 6, in a meeting with Grand National Party chairman Park Hee-tae, President Lee responded to Park’s proposal of holding a regional summit to tackle the financial crisis. “It’s a very good idea. I will propose a financial summit with China and Japan at the Asia?Europe Meeting to be held soon in Beijing.”

As the current economic crisis originated with concurrent events taking place in the global financial markets, a financial ministers’ meeting or summit with China and Japan is an idea that deserves a warm welcome from the market.

The New Progressive Party, which has gone all out to criticize whatever the Grand National Party has done, commented, “In the aftermath of the American financial turmoil, it is the only tempting offer among countermeasures released by the government.”

However, diplomacy can not be carried out by Korea alone. Counterparts must also be considered, and a good sense of timing is essential along with consideration for the diversity of economic situations facing each country.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said in a press conference on Oct. 9, “We will decide whether it is necessary to hold a summit meeting in Asia depending on the results of the meeting of the G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors.” China has yet to respond to the proposal.

There is a possibility that a Korea?China?Japan financial summit might be held. However, unveiling such a serious proposal without having any preliminary discussions with the governments or ministers of the other countries involved might pose a huge threat.

Above all, the global financial market may get the impression that Korea is facing an urgent crisis. Disclosing the fact that this unreliable proposal came from the president is a matter that we need to look back over in terms of information management.

President Lee Myung-bak is slated to attend the Asia?Europe Meeting in Beijing on Oct. 23. A Blue House official said, “We are unable to confirm that a three?party meeting will be held on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting. However, we are taking preparatory steps to promote a financial ministerial meeting with either China or Japan.”

We do hope that this meeting will materialize.

*The writer is the deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Seung-hee
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