[Viewpoint] Five reasons peace will prevailGen. Walter Sharp, the commander in chief of the ROK-United States Combined Forces Command, emphasized the U.S. promise to stand resolute and unyielding in the defense of South Korea at the U.S. Memorial Day ceremony held at the Yongsan military base. There have been dozens of similar crises in past decades, and a proclamation of strong commitment for the defense of Korea by the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea has been the most effective pre-emptive measure.
When the Vietnam War ended 35 years ago, a possible southward invasion scenario was proposed. Beginning June 17, 1975, a chilling warning was repeated day after day. Gen.James Hollingsworth, who was the Commander of the USFK at the time, encouraged Koreans by making resolute remarks to drive away North Korean aggression, such as: “If the North attacks, they will be crushed at the demarcation line,” or “The USFK has a strategy to end the conflict in nine days,” and “B-52 bombers standby to fly 24 hours and are ready to fire 1,000 bombs a day” and “We will strike at the heart of the enemy.” As an interpreter for General Hollingsworth, I still have the records of the newspaper articles and photos.
For several decades since the Korean War, South Koreans have experienced all kinds of military provocations by the North. We now know Pyongyang’s strategies and tactics well. And South Koreans have the determination not to be shaken by any provocation but to strike back. However, foreigners are different. Last week, a number of executives from international investment agencies made their first visits to South Korea. They are the analysts who have been producing positive evaluations of South Korea for over a decade.
However, the stock market plummeted and the exchange rate increased on the day they arrived in Seoul. They could not help feeling unsure and called their headquarters to tell them to prepare to drastically reduce their investments in Korea immediately. They said that they could get sued by their shareholders if they did not take proper precautions against the possible risk.
However, before they left South Korea, they made a completely opposite conclusion: South Korea will not just survive but thrive. South Koreans are desperately trying to turn its position amidst the four powers of China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. into a chance to become a business hub.
But what caused the world-class investment professionals overseeing hundreds of billions of dollars to draw a positive conclusion overnight?
The day the stock market plummeted, they met with the governor of the Bank of Korea, the vice chairman and the foreign press spokesman of the Financial Services Commission and the presidential aide for international economy. They also spent a great deal of time with the chairman of the Seoul Financial Forum. From these meetings, they learned information to which foreign investors previously did not have access.
First, North Korea does not have the capacity to carry out a sustained full-scale war. They do not even have sufficient fuel necessary to carry out such an operation. Second, a war might lead to a large number of casualties in the beginning, but the overwhelming strength of the ROK-U.S. combined forces would crush North Korea in a few days. Third, tens of millions of U.S. forces are defending South Korea in addition to the ROK military. The U.S. 7th Fleet would also dominate the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula, and the U.S. Air Force in Osan would secure the air.
Fourth, China would not want a military provocation from Pyongyang because of the problems a war on the Korean Peninsula could bring, such as refugees, negative effects on the Chinese economy and the possibility of directly bordering a U.S. ally. Fifth, China is likely to display leadership as part of the G-2 and will initiate international cooperation by encouraging Pyongyang to apologize and resume the six-party talks.
Above all, the international investment agency executives were impressed by the talents, loyalty and work ethics of the Koreans they interviewed. They decided to expand their investments in Korea based on the country’s solid fundamentals and potential for growth.
Their evaluation is not wrong. Koreans have come together whenever the nation is faced with a crisis. Koreans even donated gold to pay back the national debt and volunteered to clean up the oil spill in Taean.
During the Japanese invasion of 1592, civilians and monks fought together against the invaders as volunteer soldiers. Now South Korean companies’ R&D investment with respect to GDP is the largest in the world, and Korea is also a leader in the automobile, shipbuilding, heavy and IT industries. The finance, medical, education, tourism and entertainment industries are also emerging as new growth engines.
An official from the Treasury of the United Kingdom who was in charge of the G-8 agenda said Koreans’ capacity would exceed their own expectations and that the G-20 Summit in Seoul will be a success.
As long as we don’t have a military incident on the Korean Peninsula, South and North Korea will thrive and become prosperous through economic cooperation.
*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is chairman of Deutche Bank Korea and honorary chairman of the MIG Alley Chapter of the U.S. Air Force Association.
By Kim Soo-ryong