[Viewpoint] Leave cares behind at G-20, please

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[Viewpoint] Leave cares behind at G-20, please

The G-20 Summit in Seoul is to open on Nov. 11. The leaders of the G-20 member countries, plus leaders from five nonmember countries and seven heads of international organizations, are arriving in Seoul. The hangars and runways of Incheon International Airport and Seoul Airport are expected to be jammed with over 40 presidential airplanes. It is a rare scene for Korea. The citizens sincerely welcome the world leaders to Seoul.

Thirty-two leaders are to attend the summit, and the last one to arrive in Seoul will be President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the chair of next year’s G-20. Sarkozy had a busy schedule last week as President Hu Jintao of China made a three-day state visit to Paris. After attending the Armistice Day Ceremony on Nov. 11, Sarkozy is to arrive in Seoul in the early morning of Nov. 12.

He sent notice that he wouldn’t be able to attend the welcoming reception and the dinner banquet at the National Museum on Thursday evening. Sarkozy’s visit to Korea marks the transfer of the chairmanship of the G-20 Summit for next year, and at the same time, it will be the first overseas trip on his newly purchased presidential airplane.

France has suffered great disturbances in the last few months as demonstrators all over the country protested against the Sarkozy government’s pension reforms. The public criticized Sarkozy for spending a large amount of money on a new airplane while demanding the citizens cut back to reduce the fiscal deficit. The purchase of the presidential plane had been decided upon before the global financial crisis, and in order to save money, a 12-year-old used passenger jet was renovated to be used as the presidential plane.

However, there are rumors that the airplane was decorated luxuriously to suit the “bling-bling” lifestyle of Sarkozy and his first lady. As he boards the new plane and travels to Seoul, Sarkozy might feel little comfort from the disapproving glares of French citizens.

Everyone has his share of agony, and other heads of state attending the G-20, too, have concerns and worries. One president might be contemplating the political aftermath following a midterm election defeat. Another president might be worrying about damage from natural disasters after a series of volcanic eruptions. Someone might be troubled with territorial disputes, and another could be agonized over the libido he cannot seem to control. One leader is still in shock and grief after losing her husband, who was a political partner and sponsor.

No matter what’s on your mind, please forget about all the worries upon arriving in Seoul. Meticulous care and a sincere welcome await you. You are in Seoul for a short visit of two to three days, but please make yourselves comfortable and enjoy the hospitality Korea has prepared as the chair country.

President Lee Myung-bak is paying so much attention to the event, and if possible, he would even love to change the weather to make it just perfect. He stood by the principle to be “simple and practical,” but he made sure every detail is flawless. He personally checked the height of the sofa seats in the meeting hall and even changed the plant pots.

The Korean government has spent over 130 billion won ($116.74 million) to host the summit. That’s only half as much as the French president spent on his new airplane, but please don’t forget that it is valuable money from Korea’s taxpayers.

The grave task of reviving the troubled global economy is on your shoulders. Imbalances in the global economy need to be resolved, and the exchange rate war has to be ended because nations are behaving selfishly. You need to work together to help the underdeveloped countries that are not included in the G-20 meeting.

Also, you should come up with financial regulatory measures to correct the moral hazard of the policy known as “too big to fail.” The future of the next generation is in your hands. The global economy is in such serious trouble that we cannot afford to have a meeting with a lot of discussion and no results.

This is the first time that the president of the Republic of Korea is presiding over an international meeting of world leaders. The president might be tempted to think of this as a personal accomplishment. But the G-20 didn’t come to Korea because the president himself is a great man. He must never forget that this honor is the outcome of the blood, sweat and tears of every citizen. If there is any attempt to give credit to the president, he should turn it down with dignity. Credit should be given to the civil servants and citizens for giving their full support and putting up with inconveniences in preparation for the event. I sincerely wish for a successful G-20 Summit in Seoul.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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