New values for transportationEarly 19th century Europe was stained with wars Napoleon waged with neighboring countries. In 1814, Napoleon fled to Elba and the war ended, but the two-decade war left devastating damages that a country cannot endure alone. And Europe brought something unimaginable into reality. Ambassadors of European states got together to discuss a post-war reconstruction plan. The Congress of Vienna, the first international meeting in history, was held from September 1814 to June 1815.
The Congress of Vienna made the U.K. and Russia - which initiated the meeting - superpowers and created a new order called the Vienna System. While Europe competed for colonies and experienced two World Wars, the ordeals actually emphasized the need for international cooperation. Moreover, grounds for similar international exchanges in other areas, such as academia and sports, were set up. In 1896, the modern Olympic Games began, and the World Road Congress was founded in 1908.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Congress of Vienna and 107th anniversary of the first World Road Congress. While large-scale warfare is not happening anymore, the economic wars between countries are fiercer than ever. The development of information and communication technologies has made movement of capital and technology active and speed of development faster. In the road and traffic area, competition to win contracts in underdeveloped countries’ markets with high growth potential is intense. On the other hand, climate change and the economic slump are threatening survival just as imperialism had invaded in the past.
Korea’s road and traffic industry has accomplished unprecedented growth, building over 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of highway in four decades. But the prospect is not very bright. A prolonged economic slump and decrease in investment have reduced the market size, and investment opportunities are decreasing. Despite the drastic advances in construction and maintenance technologies, there are little factors to boost construction businesses, and low growth and a global economic slowdown are expected as a result of demographic changes such as low birth rate and aging of the population.
At this juncture, it is only natural that the subtitle of the 25th World Road Congress in Seoul is “Roads and Mobility ? Creating New Value from Transport.” When risks and opportunities coexist, we need a new paradigm to turn crisis into chances. Through the first-ever ministerial declaration to be adopted in the 100 years of the World Road Congress, representatives from member countries will advocate joint measures for road and traffic issues the world is facing and confirm endeavor to create new values.
Moreover, we need to remember that the U.K. and Russia advanced abroad based on the recognition of the international community earned through the Congress of Vienna 200 years ago. The World Road Association is a non-governmental organization hosting the World Road Congress, and the heads of road authorities in more than 120 countries are involved as senior representatives and directors. In every congress, transportation ministers from more than 40 countries attend the event. By successfully hosting the most prestigious international event in road and transportation field, Korea can reestablish international status, which will bring more outcomes than what can be calculated in numbers.
In November, road and transportation leaders and experts from 120 countries around the world will gather in Seoul. The policy makers will not hesitate to have behind-the-scenes talks to capture the opportunities for domestic growth in road and transportation industry as well as overseas contracts. Businessmen will also actively participate in exhibitions and business meetings to promote their technologies and competitiveness. Citizens’ support and participation will be the driving force to make it a successful and productive event.
*The author is the executive vice-chairperson of the Korean Organizing Committee of the 25th World Road Congress.