[Viewpoint] Now is Korea’s time to shine

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[Viewpoint] Now is Korea’s time to shine

Just as even a small village has a group of local leaders, there are meetings of influential leaders in the international community. Since 1976, major industrialized nations have been holding G-7/G-8 meetings. So far, those meetings have played the role of the unofficial operations committee of the international community, discussing major global issues and seeking solutions.

However, through the 1990s and 2000s, the groups’ economic influence over the global economy has changed dramatically, and skepticism has grown over exactly how representative, legitimate and effective the two groups have been.

As the international community was hit hard by worldwide financial and economic crisis, the Group of 20 major economies was launched to include the G-8 industrialized countries as well as developing economies, such as Korea.

When the economic crisis began, many experts were concerned about the possibility of the worst economic crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet, the global economy is already showing signs of recovery.

Few disagree that the close international cooperation initiated by the G-20 is largely responsible for the quick turnaround.

The third G-20 summit took place in Pittsburgh on September 24-25, with leaders confirming that the G-20 was the new unofficial operations committee for global economic cooperation. The group named Korea as its chair for 2010.

The appointment is truly an amazing honor. Korea has not only become a member of the global leadership group, but also has been given the job of initiating discussions on the major economic issues and seeking worldwide solutions.

Korea became a member of the United Nations only two decades ago and once had to be content with passively participating in the events of the world, both big and small. Going from those humble beginnings to being the chair of the G-20 is a major historical achievement.

Korea’s international status is surely based in part on the national caliber of its entire citizenship. More directly, the international community recognizes the sincere contribution and reliable ability Korea has displayed in the first and the second G-20 meetings held in Washington and London.

Unlike the G-7 and G-8 summit meetings that were mostly limited to general discussions, G-20 summits have prepared more specific and doable action plans. Korea made a significant contribution to the success of the meetings, and other members of the G-20 acknowledge that role.

For example, President Lee Myung-bak advocated a “standstill” to reduce protectionism and induced the agreement of 20 world leaders. That commitment is considered one of the most significant outcomes of the meetings.

In preparation for the G-20 London summit and the drafting of the declaration, Korea played an active role in finding a balance and creating action plans rather than rhetoric.

Moreover, as a member of the G-20 management troika, Korea has installed and been operating the G-20 Planning and Coordination Committee directly under the president. A committee of related ministers and Blue House secretaries have been working to facilitate smooth communications among world leaders. The chairman of the committee visited key members of the G-20 as a presidential envoy to discuss economic issues with state and high-ranking policy makers.

The committee has also reached out to the related officials in G-20 member countries through video conferences, phone and e-mail exchanges.

However, there’s even more to the unanimous decision to appoint Korea as the next G-20 president and the host country for the 2010 meeting.

Some non-members have negative views on the G-20, and some member countries hope to maintain the old G-7/G-8 order. Some think the G-20 has too many members and suggest reducing and reorganizing the group to include only 13 or 14.

President Lee Myung-bak personally contacted the heads of these countries and persuaded them to support the G-20 establishment through the cooperation of high-ranking officials in each country.

The Korean government’s aggressive support and willingness to contribute to the G-20 projected a positive image of Korea.

Now that the hard-earned historical chance has been offered, we need to use our energy and wisdom to enhance Korea’s prestige and make the G-20 meeting a premier forum of international economic cooperation.

The writer is the chairman of the G-20 Planning and Coordination Committee.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Sakong Il

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