Making the sea our economic ground of the futureMay 31 was the Ocean Day. As the maritime development competition intensified between countries after the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea took effect in November 1994, Korea designated the Ocean Day in 1996 to publicize the importance of the sea and inspire maritime pioneering spirit. However, in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry tragedy, this year’s celebration events have been either reduced or canceled. The marine industry insiders are discouraged and feel guilty after the accident.
However, as we mourn for the tragic incident, we also need to think about the value of the ocean. Making up 71 percent of the surface of the earth, the oceans are the last remaining unexplored field. The value of the sea is especially significant for Korea, where three sides of the peninsula are surrounded by the seas and marine territory is more than four times the size of the land. The sea provides inexpensive and safe trade route, abundant seabed resources and marine products, creating great wealth for the nation.
The sailors who navigate the five oceans to transport Korean export goods, fishermen operating in the deep sea far away from Korea, the workers at the dockyard working day and night to build world-class ships and meet order deadlines, the researchers engaged in studies at the King Sejong Antarctic Research station, the Naval officers guarding the marine territories and standing face to face with North Korea, and the coast guards cracking down illegal fishing operations are the key players in the sea.
As Korea became one of the top 10 exporters from the poorest country in the world, Korea did not fear the ocean. Rather we challenged and controlled it. The shipbuilding industry, the marine transport industry, fisheries industry and the marine resources industry have made great contributions to the Korean economy. Moreover, marine life engineering is celebrated as a future industry, and marine leisure industry is emerging as a next-generation growth engine.
Instead of fearing the sea, we need to overcome and manage to make it our economic ground of the future. If we had managed the sea better, we could have prevented the Sewol ferry disaster. Let’s remember what the seas mean to us.
BY Pak Myong-sop, Chairman of the Korea Trade Research Association and a professor at Sungkyunkwan University