[Viewpoint] Africa risingThe celebration of the Republic of South Sudan’s independence occurred in a scorching furnace. In extreme heat over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), people danced and leapt in the air as if enchanted by magic. The flag of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which was adopted as the national flag of South Sudan, was hoisted, and the national anthem was played in the plaza of the country’s capital, Juba.
People embraced one another and shared tears of joy. July 9 was not simply the day that South Sudan gained its independence from the Republic of Sudan. Civil war in Sudan was almost inevitable since Great Britain arbitrarily merged two states with different ethnic backgrounds, religions and languages.
July 9 marks the day that South Sudan broke out of the yoke put on it by 19th century Western imperialism. Its independence was a miracle attained by the peaceful means of a national referendum.
Where did the power to open up a new chapter in the history of Africa come from? The answer was immediately seen when I arrived in South Sudan. South Sudan is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. But it’s easy to spot people using mobile phones in Juba. Advertisements for Samsung phones can be spotted all over the downtown streets.
Mobile phones are a symbol of communication, and communication leads to awakening. The waves of democratization sweeping Northern Africa were inspired by the revolution of communication through social network services. Many Africans, who were once confined to their own continent, have gained awareness through communication with the rest of the world. South Sudan is not the only country - Egypt and Ethiopia are also changing.
When Africa awakens, world history will change. Africa is the second most populous continent after Asia, with a population of 1 billion. It is impossible to estimate the size of its abundant natural resources. Africa also has unlimited potential in food and tourism. Africa has been left undeveloped, in part, by of a series of chronic civil wars.
But a new chapter has begun. In the Ivory Coast, a president elected by its citizens and sworn in democratically drove out a predecessor who had used the military as his power base. South Sudan ended its civil war through a national referendum. Sure, the United Nations and international community helped these African countries establish democratic regimes. Nevertheless, if many Africans didn’t take the initiative on their own, democratic governments or independent states would have only been a fantasy.
Many countries around the world are now paying attention to Africa’s potential. China has steadily increased its influence.
In an illustration of China’s growing presence in Africa, every Sudanese I encountered greeted me with, “Ni hao!”
But Korea still has a shot. African countries are working hard to rebuild after devastating civil wars. It would be a challenge to model their reconstruction after China, whereas Korea is a proven example of successfully attaining development colonial occupation and war.
That’s why many Africans are interested in learning from Korea. Moreover, South Sudan is the home of the valuable legacy left by the late Father John Tae-seok Lee, whose sacrifice and dedication were shown in the documentary “Don’t Cry for Me, Sudan.”
Perhaps the government should consider dispatching Korean forces to Africa as a part of United Nations Peacekeeping operations. Korean forces have already earned a positive reputation for their missions in Afghanistan and East Timor.
I felt fortunate that Korean companies are already expanding their businesses in many countries in Africa. But the time has come to shift gears and accelerate.
What we need is to predict the future in 50 or even 100 years. Very soon, Africa will be the new growth engine of the world.
*The writer is the New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Jung Kyung-min