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Now is Time for Sports-Conference Diplomacy

Posted June. 28, 2002 09:12,   


Throughout the global soccer gala, Korea not only made the history with its advance to the final 4, but also showed passion and civility of Koreans to the world. The news about Korea’s beating European powerhouses, Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain, made headlines throughout the world. The world press extolled outstanding performances of the Korean team and enthusiastic but orderly-mannered Red Devil cheering despite the defeat to Germany in the semi-final match.

Successfully hosting the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup carries significance to some great extent. Now the world will pay keen attention to what Koreans make as well as who Koreans are. And this is a step towards the 21st century diplomacy we have to employ.

Korea is a relatively small country surrounded by powerhouses such as China, Russia and Japan. Therefore, the only way it can stand on an equal par with the powerhouses is to focus on sports and conference diplomacy. That is, we need to prove our value in the sports arena as well as the economic area.

Hosting international sports games and organizing conferences on foreign affairs and security, economics, culture and civic movement will be of great help to increase our presence in the global stage. To host those events successfully, we must be fully equipped with both software and hardware.

On the software side, the government must continue to foster world-class sports players who will compete in the global playground. Remember we already brought up Taegeuk warriors who rewrote the World Cup history.

We seem to have a considerable competitive edge, being the motherland of Taekwondo and leading games of archery and marathon. Look at Korean professional baseball players and golfers dominating the world’s top leagues. With the steadfast interest and support from the people, it not impossible for Korea to become one of sports superpowers.

That is not all, however. We need to foster human resources, who are essential to host high-profile international events. Executive members of sports associations are to play key roles in preparing and hosting big sports games and sideline gatherings. We already fielded our men to the Federation International of Football Association (FIFA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who greatly contributed to hosting the World Cup and the Olympic games.

It is important to create an environment where a larger number of talented people serve as private-sector diplomats. The government also must provide full support to promote volunteer culture.

On the hardware side, it goes without saying that we must have world-class facilities where those events will be held. It will be better to build scenic and environment-friendly surroundings so that tourists, players and meeting participants become wanting to visit Korea again. Vienna, Singapore and Geneva become most attractive places to hold events, then why can’t we? What we have to do is to build infrastructure across the country.

Some say that our land has been irrevocably damaged due to development frenzy. But I beg to differ. Nanjido, which used to be a landfill full of stenches, has turned into an ecological park that stands in harmony with Seoul World Cup Stadium. As long as the government and local authorities have a will to carry on and the public is willing to cooperate, we can build more of such environment-friendly stadiums and conference halls, turning a large part of the country into theme parks.

When these efforts finally bear fruit, Korea will emerge as an East Asian powerhouse leading sports and conference diplomacy. Imagine we host a number of world’s renowned gatherings in 20 to 30 years. We will be gracious hosts across security, economics and nongovernmental areas.

Sitting next to G7 nations, presiding over meetings and serving as mediators, I can see statesmen, diplomats, economists, sports players and civic movement activists from Korea dominate the global stage.

Kim Woo-sang, Professor of International Politics at Yonsei University