Sunday, November 7, 2010

G20 Summit and Korea's image

By Behzad Shahandeh

The designation of South Korea to host the fifth summit meeting of the Group of 20 is, beyond all doubt a diplomatic triumph for the nation, since it will be the biggest international event in contemporary Korean history, and far more important than holding the 1988 Olympics, or the 2002 World Cup.

Seeing that the summit convenes and proceeds smoothly will be in itself a success and definitely boost South Korea’s image abroad. The achievement will be augmented if Seoul initiates and instills a number of policy agendas in the final proceedings of the summit, ensuring that they will be included in the deliberations to be followed at the next summit in France. Formalizing the ``go-green” concept initiated by President Lee Myung-bak, to become a Korean brand and be most welcome in a world evermore threatened by environmental degradation.

South Korea needs to play an even greater role than it did at the London Summit by depicting itself as an emerging economic power. This entails adopting action programs and balancing agenda items on such divisive issues as the one involving China and the United States in relation to the devalued Chinese yuan. Seoul can become a bridge-maker, as both said countries see Korea as a partner rather than a competitor. Seoul can usher in a moratorium on the issue which can be dubbed as: ``Seoul Moratorium,” a brand-maker for Korea.

The ``Miracle of the Han River” which has led Korea to rank 13th in world economic might, was achieved after a brutal colonial period followed by a destructive three-year war on the Korean Peninsula. This rapid economic development, when combined with the previously-mentioned assets, will be a winning ticket for Korea, and will do away with its negative stereotyping as just a hard power.

The summit will provide a window of opportunity to reintroduce South Korea’s rich past and enviable present, and to revitalize its ``Visit Korea 2010-2020” slogan.

A concerted and sustained effort in promoting Korea’s image globally is indeed a long process, but the summit is a golden opportunity to reintroduce the nation’s richness, both soft and hard, and to revitalize it.

First and foremost, Korea needs to be more involved in voluntary humanitarian endeavors abroad, to play a larger role in ODA activities, to participate more actively in addressing global crisis situations, and to have a bigger share in international civic responsibilities.

As an example of the positive image that South Korea already has ushered in is its contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, which is a plus for the nation’s image, and must be duplicated in other areas of international voluntary work. An important effort to ponder upon here is to enhance Seoul’s economic and humanitarian help to North Korea regardless of any other considerations, as rising above politics will go long a distance in presenting the real Korea and its rich heritage of caring for others.

The Seoul G20 meeting will enable Korea to present its soft power based on a long history, rich civilization, cultural values ― especially the family ties so rare in a world confronted with family crisis ― and bountiful natural scenery. The beauty of Korea’s natural sceneries could be promoted through international tours through which foreign visitors would be able to discover this well-preserved environment, while at the same time experiencing the deeply-rooted sense of hospitality of the people.

To the same effect, the cultural sector must promote the country’s rich history, civilization, and culture through numerous venues. A good example would be to continue presenting historical Korean family values through such television productions as ``Jumong” and ``Dae Jang Geum.” This must be accompanied by producing such modern dramas as ``Winter Sonata”.

South Korea indeed has much more clout than a mere merchant nation and the G20 Summit in Seoul can contribute to revitalizing these assets while the world focuses on this event. A golden opportunity thus awaits Korea, an opportunity which must not be lost.
The writer teaches at Graduate School of International Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He is the author of ``Economy and Politics in Korea.” He can be reached at:

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