Leading the Eurasian eraTechnology, new logistics routes, energy and creative policy ideas have decided the success and failure of human history and countries. Depending on the influence over the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the hegemony of Europe changed. Depending on the development of new logistics, the introduction of new energies such as coal and nuclear power, and technology, the rise and fall of nations has been decided throughout history.
Even right at this moment, crucial developments are being made that will determine history. The key is never missing the decisive moment and decisive judgment.
German reunification on Oct. 3, 1990, and the fall of the Soviet Union on Dec. 24, 1991, ended the Cold War. At the same time, the virtual divisions in the spaces of Eurasia also dissolved. Germany made a decisive judgment at a decisive moment to achieve its reunification and today it continues to maximize its national interests by making the most use out of the dynamics of the spaces in Eurasia.
The spaces in Eurasia, divided by the Cold War, have been reinvented over the last 20 years and are now a single, dynamic space. The European Union moved its influence toward the East rapidly. From the eastern end, attempts were made to integrate Russia’s far East and Siberia with the economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region.
The Eastern Partnership of the European Union, efforts to create economic alliances through free trade agreements, the Greater Tumen Initiative and Vladivostok’s hosting of the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit symbolize such trends.
After the 1998 Asian foreign exchange crisis and the 2008 global economic crisis, some other relatively unclear trends have emerged more clearly. Russia and China, and Russia and India, are expanding their bilateral cooperation while Russia has worked on creating a Customs Union and Eurasia Economic Community. By redefining the spaces of Eurasia, countries are steadily competing with strategies to maximize their national interests.
In Eurasia, high-speed railways and pipelines have recently been installed, improving the connections between the interior and the northern and southern regions. Arctic Ocean routes that will change global logistics are also opening up. The second aftermath of the post-Cold War era has arrived in Eurasia in terms of energy and logistics.
For Korea, improving its dynamic in Eurasia is directly linked to the growth of its national power. As the dynamics of Eurasia have grown stronger, Korea’s importance has also grown as a symbolic gate. Geopolitically, Korea will face a new opportunity to play a key role as a Rimland country, a concept introduced by Nicholas J. Spykman to describe the maritime fringe of a country or continent.
Over the past two decades, Korea has effectively met with changes in Russia, Central Asia and China with its northward policy. Those countries became important partners in Korea’s economic leap. Although the traditional structure of ideological and security confrontations still lingers, they built enough consensus with their economic dependencies and effectiveness of cooperation.
Now, Korea needs a new, advanced cooperation strategy to make a new leap while catching up with the second wind of changes in the region. At this point, Seoul is hosting the Eurasia Initiative event today and President Park Geun-hye will attend it.
Herodotus said history is an activity that crosses the invisible line that separates the East and West on the continent of Eurasia. In the 21st century, that activity is based on knowledge and creativity.
Taking the opportunity of the upcoming event, Korea must seek to become a leader to stimulate mutual prosperity and cooperation among the countries in the region, while putting an end to the geopolitical game driven by the superpowers and the game of dividing the economic blocs inside Eurasia.
*The author is the head of the Korean Center for Eurasian Studies and a visiting professor at Hankook University of Foreign Studies.
by Kim Seok-hwan