After doing well, Korea must do good

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After doing well, Korea must do good

Chae In-taek

The author is a senior writer on international affairs at the JoongAng Ilbo.

Where is South Korea on today’s global map? From the news of corporate feats in Europe and the Middle East, South Korean technologies are making fast strides across the globe.

The Polish government last month inked a provisional contract for long-term imports of 980 K2 Black Panther tanks valued at $14.5 billion from Hyundai Rotem, 648 self-propelled artillery from Hanwha Defense Systems, and 48 FA-50 light attack aircraft from Korea Aerospace industries. On Aug. 26, Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Defense Systems signed a $5.76 billion first-phase contract. On Aug. 25, the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power won a $2.3 billion deal to supply turbine buildings and structures for a power plant in Egypt.

South Korea certainly made big accomplishments in Europe and the Middle East. But the country needs to pay for the generous awards there and from the rest of the world.

The planet Earth this year has been experiencing extreme climate, conflicts, violations of human rights and crises in humanity. Extraordinary heat waves, drought, and floods from climate disruptions have swept North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.

According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (Unccd), 90 percent of the worst damage from abnormal climate is concentrated in the poorest countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Among the 10 conflicts to watch in 2022 cited by New York-based NGO International Crisis Group, most involve poor countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Africa.

Afghanistan is stricken with poverty, extreme climate woes, conflict and terrorism fears after the Taliban conquered Kabul and a year since the withdrawal of American troops. Despite dire shortages of food and health services, no one knows when the U.S.-led sanctions can be lifted.

Christine Cipolla, regional director for the Asia Pacific for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), pleaded for humanitarian assistance for mothers and pregnant women in the worst maternal mortality rate in the world as 638 women die per 100,000 births. She explained how people sell their personal belongings on the streets of Kabul to take home food for the table.

In Myanmar, since the military coup in February 2021, ethnic minorities are under a heavy crackdown by the notoriously brutal armed forces, who terrorize not just minorities like Rohingya Muslims but also the Buddhist majority. As many as 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring countries like Bangladesh and don’t dare to return home.

Park Ji-hae, a ICRC press officer in Seoul who worked in Myanmar, said staff in Myanmar are doing their upmost to check on detainees and improve healthcare as well as continuing with community work. Bangladesh is coping with a flood of refugees despite the fact that it is a poor country itself with per capita income of $2,362 according to the International Monetary Fund.

South Korea should take pride in its business successes in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. But social responsibility comes with them. The world demands more from middle-income countries through increased official development assistance (ODA) and private-sector commitments.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida virtually attended a Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) and promised $30 billion public and private funding from Japan over the next three years.

Since it started the meeting with 10 African states in 1996, Japan held the conference every five years until 2013 and every three years since then.

On an Aug. 7-11 tour to South Africa, the Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged Covid-19 vaccines and food aid to African nations. South Korea could donate vaccines, food, and more.

Korea must expand the activities of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) and consider allowing young men to work for it in lieu of their compulsory military duty. The government and universities can sponsor global gap years. Such activities can bolster the image of Korea. Establishing a global broadcaster to deliver news from the Korean perspective also could elevate the national status of the country.
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