Diplomacy through businessNew leaderships have been established in Korea, with Moon Jae-in, and the United States, with Donald Trump. And two countries are standing at the crossroad of new partnership. Over the hot issue of the North Korean nuclear threat, it is urgent to find a middle ground between Washington’s sanctions and pressure and Korea’s new “Moon-shine” policy. Other challenges include the Thaad deployment, transfer of the wartime operational control and renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
The two countries have experienced various ups and downs but never stopped to work for cooperation and better relationships. We need to keep in mind that not just government-level talks and endeavors but also cooperation in the private sector can bring a breakthrough.
A good example is the visa exemption between Korea and the United States signed in November, 2008. Nowadays, it is very easy for Koreans to travel to the United States for business or leisure. But only 10 years ago, we were accustomed to seeing people lining up before the U.S. Embassy in Gwanghwamun to obtain a U.S. visa.
Efforts to resolve this began in the private sector, companies asking for easier access since the late 1990s. Many companies requested the U.S. government designate Korea as a visa exempt country and worked hard to meet the standards that the United States was asking for. But after the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, the entry procedure into the United States became reinforced, and it became nearly impossible to be included in the visa exemption program.
Then Hyosung Group chairman Cho Seok-rae, who served as the chairman of the Korea-U.S. Business Council, had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and emphasized the need for visa exemption. He explained that many Korean companies do businesses in the United States and import U.S. goods, but it was hard to expand the business due to visa restriction.
Today, Korean companies are unfolding business ventures all across the world. They are not mere merchants but should be entrusted the justification and mission to work for the country and people. In the era of Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump, companies will generate diplomatic accomplishments greater than ever if they are given the role of private diplomats.
Im Ho-gyun, Vice chairman of the Korea Advertisers Association.