[Viewpoint] Much more than allies - friends

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[Viewpoint] Much more than allies - friends

We welcome President Barack Obama with open arms, not just out of customary habit among friends. South Koreans share the world’s interest in President Obama’s global activities because he embodies a new path for the United States in international relations as well as in ties with old allies like us.

Quality of life has been fundamentally transformed and revolutionized through the innovations spawned from the information revolution.

At every momentous turn in history we cannot help but ask if traditional beliefs and values like freedom, equality and justice will continue to have the same significance and validity in the new age.

America is no longer the world’s single superpower, amid declining military and political influence in world affairs. Moreover, it lost face in the aftermath of the Wall Street-sparked financial meltdown.

The nation faces a crossroads at which it must define its new role in a diversified global environment. And President Obama happens to be the man standing at the door to a new future for America and the world, holding the key.

The U.S. is a melting pot of various ethnic groups and cultures. It is the world’s first federal republic run by democratic procedure. The world has watched its trials and experiments during its turbulent journey over the last two centuries.

The first African-American president has meaning beyond politics, as it serves as a reassurance of the American dream. Americans undoubtedly have regained their pride and confidence through their choice in last year’s election.

President Obama’s platform for global peace and prosperity has been gathering support throughout the world. He has put his foot down on urgent issues such as climate change and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and drawn attention to other important problems such as the intensifying wealth gap both among and within countries. Obama has traveled the world campaigning for cooperation on these issues.

His pronounced stance has reinforced American leadership on the global stage and will likely mean positive progress for future Korea-U.S. relations.

The three East Asian countries President Obama is currently visiting are economies that have grown at a staggering speed, accompanying rising status and influence in the global community, becoming the envy of other parts of the world.

Yet the region is dogged by a dark history, lingering suspicions and intricate problems.

Residents of Hiroshima and traces in that city still tell of the horrendous dangers of nuclear weapons. Yet right across the sea, another regime threatens a nuclear war for its own security. Meanwhile, the last remaining barrier of the Pacific War and the Cold War stands on the Korean Peninsula, keeping families and friends apart for more than half a century.

The path ahead for the two allies Korea and the U.S. remains long and strenuous.

We Koreans take pride in our accomplishments - especially our quick industrialization and democratization.

But we wish neither to overestimate nor to underestimate ourselves.

We will proudly fulfill our role in the global community, following our allies with our own capacities and visions. We will increase our aid and support to developing countries to help build a new global order. We will enhance peacekeeping and security assistance in areas of conflict to contribute to global security efforts. We will do our part through green growth economic initiatives to have an effect on climate change.

Our active participation in global campaigns stems not only from pursuit of our national interests but also from faith and longing for a safe and equal global society.

Korea and the United States have extended their relations beyond security cooperation to a partnership in building a peaceful global neighborhood through regional security and prosperity, and creating a productive new global order. We hope President Obama’s visit will reaffirm our future-oriented companionship at home and abroad.

*The writer is a former prime minister and adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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