Korea takes center stageThe G-20 Summit carries special meaning because it deals primarily with the post-crisis world economy. First of all, the summit faces new challenges that have just emerged from our new economic reality, such as conflicts over trade surpluses and deficits, exchange rate manipulation, fiscal austerity and intervention in sovereign currencies.
The rift has been exacerbated by the United States’ quantitative easing, guidelines on the current account balance and a global financial safety net. But there has been no period without trouble. Whether it achieves its goals or not, there is no doubt the G-20 Summit will continue to be a major force steering the global economy.
The G-20 Summit carries a great significance for Korea. In 1907, when Korea was on the verge of collapse due to Japan’s imperialist ambitions, King Gojong sent three special emissaries, including diplomat Yi Jun, to The Hague to protest against Japan’s illegitimate attempt to annex Korea. With Korea already deprived of its diplomatic sovereignty, however, the three envoys were prohibited from entering the hall for an international peace conference, leading Yi Jun to commit suicide.
Three years later, Korea was annexed by Japan and disappeared from the world map. In 1945, it became an independent country thanks to the allied forces, but the country was divided after the 1950-53 Korean War.
The Republic of Korea, stricken with poverty, was alienated from the rest of the world and required assistance from developed countries.
But South Korea changed its fate starting in the 1970s. It achieved industrialization and democracy in the shortest period of time in the world. It hosted the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the World Cup in 2002, and now is host of the G-20 Summit. That means that the world now accepts Korea’s current stature - after having witnessed its tremendous transition from the periphery to center stage.
But we cannot celebrate too much.
We should take this opportunity to reinvent ourselves once again.
The nation can still be split over ideological differences, as seen in the case of the Cheonan sinking, the National Assembly is not always on its best behavior when controversial issues come up, and reason and science do not work when it comes to the four-rivers restoration project. Yet we have also shown that we can come together, and we should aim to do so more often. As South Korea takes center stage, it is time for us to imagine what our next steps will be.