Lee declares diplomatic push in Asia. 2009.03.09 The Korean Herald
Lee seeks to ‘gain the trust of other Asian nations’ so as to represent them and indeed ‘speak for them’. Furthermore Lee wants to play peace maker with China and Japan. To do all this South Korea will ‘have to take a lead with major international issues such as the financial crises and climate change’.
South Korea under the previous president, Kim Dea-Jung, was a playing a major role in addressing international issues: reconciling with the North so as to bring peace and stability to the peninsular, and region. This is how the South Korean government can earn respect across Asia: resuming the supply of basic humanitarian aid to the close relatives starving on the other side of the fence.
This is how to combat climate change: even small cuts in the 670,000 troops and their hardware (plus that of the US troops) would constitute important steps towards combating global warming and resource depletion. This would also free up revenue that could be put to good use as aid to the less developed Asian states.
This is how to play peace maker between China and Japan: take a lead in pursuing the demilitarization of North East Asia through trust building exercises and increases mutual aid and, therefore, dependence.
This is how to emerge stronger from the current financial crisis: increase aid and trade with the north, help the 28 million people who share common language and history to come in from the cold1. Allow them to gain access to decent living standards and more productive working lives. Seek to reopen trade routes and rail links to the ‘mainland’, and restore Korea to its historical role of bridge between China and Japan.2
Lee Myung Bak’s seeking to ‘strengthen korea’s position in the rest of Asia’ is not only wishful thinking, given the recent series of blows that the Korean economy has taken, but a cynical means of diverting too closer attention away from the tension he has stoked up with the north and from his domestic policies of curtailing media freedom and letting the burden of the crisis fall on the workers.
1 The other 800,000 Koreans of Yanbian may have a part to play in facilitating improved trade and relations, and are sure to appreciate freer movement of people and commodities along with the rest of the regions inhabitants.
2 Resource rich Manchuria and the Russia Far East are sure to benefit immensely from the thawing of difficult borders and to transport links and cultural exchanges being renewed.