[Viewpoint] Toward building national prestige

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[Viewpoint] Toward building national prestige

President Lee Myung-bak supposedly made a great accomplishment recently. He really made it big, as they say. He ended the year in a diplomatic flourish that helped Korea win the contract to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant with a construction budget of more than $20 billion for the United Arab Emirates.

Maybe some people are now ready to be satisfied with their choice in the last presidential election.

An economic policy research institute issued an official review titled “The president who performed many miracles is gaining public support.” At the same time, a newspaper warned of the possible dangers of nuclear accidents and insisted that it is risky for the government to encourage the exportation of nuclear plans as it did according to the export policies of industrial products in the past.

The Freedom Advance Association insisted that the editorial of this newspaper is rubbish, saying, “It should be voluntarily discontinued.”

I don’t mean to disparage President Lee’s achievements in diplomacy in sales or business. It is natural that we should give him credit for his huge contribution to winning the bid, by using the excellent resources of a talented tradesman. However, we are ashamed to see people acting hastily, as if the work had been unlikely to be achieved without Lee’s participation. It does not suit the national image.

It is outrageous to think that President Lee’s several phone calls and direct involvement in negotiations at the last minute played the decisive role in winning the bid for the huge construction project. The U.A.E. must have weighed their pluses and minuses in their own way and decided that Korea should be the winner. Yet, it is uncomfortable to hear some people sneering at and provoking Lee, saying, “He puts on airs for his little contribution to things that have been already prepared,” or, “It was such selfish behavior for him to reap what companies had sown.”

Meanwhile, some people flattered him as if he alone had made a truly enormous achievement. From a commonsense perspective, it is the result of the concerted endeavors of Korean enterprises, and the diplomatic capabilities of the government as well as the president. It is shameful to see that people are excited, as if Korea had beaten France in an international competition.

The French press continues to present their arguments that the defeat of France is a natural consequence and they should learn a valuable lesson from the affair. The first cause of defeat pointed out by the French press is that there was something fundamentally wrong with the battle plan of the French-led consortium. As EDF, the first developer of the European Pressurised Reactor, maintained a noncommittal attitude in participating in the bid, the final consortium was barely organized in the middle of last month after the intervention of the Elysee Palace.

They did not do enough to plant strong trust compared to the Korean consortium which moved in perfect order, led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation from the beginning. France presented the final bidding price of $36 billion, which amounts to 1.8 times more than Korea.

The French press said the results were in truth obvious, as Korea has been fully equipped with proven safety, preferred public utility, quality assurance and price competitiveness.

Ahead of the G-20 summit Korea will host this year, President Lee is particularly putting a greater emphasis on national prestige. Although we beat France in its bid to win contracts and succeeded in attracting the 2010 G-20 summit, and though we launch national image advertising on CNN, it does not guarantee that our prestige will be accordingly raised. The economy alone does not have the power to accomplish this feat. This is because national prestige is the aggregate prestige of each and every person in this nation. What is most important here is a leader’s prestige. Naturally, water flows from top to bottom. A leader should set a good example. Our national prestige will be heightened under the guidance of an experienced leader who genuinely cares about and respect others, who is modest by nature, does not get excited easily, and suppresses his emotions.

“I’ve only made a few contributions. Korean scientists, technicians and entrepreneurs have spared no effort to facilitate the development of Korea’s nuclear industry so far without complaint. These are the very results of their earnest endeavor. We should make sure to build one of the world’s safest and most efficient nuclear plants within the prescribed period and return the favor by the U.A.E.” I expected that the aforementioned words would have come from President Lee the moment we finally won the deal.

It is ridiculous to give three cheers that Korea would not be hosting the G-20 summit meeting without the president. In 2010, we hope that the whole nation, as well as its leader, will ponder with all their hearts how to raise the national prestige.

*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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