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[Editorial] Raising National Dignity

Posted October. 01, 2009 07:33,   


South Korea is admired by the world for overcoming colonial rule, war and poverty, and achieving industrialization and democratization in a short period of time. The country set a precedent by developing from a nation where most people suffered from hunger into one of the world’s major economies in 40 years. Since the Constitution was enacted in 1987, the government has seen peaceful transfers of power through popular elections. Through its hosting of next year’s Group of 20 summit, the country is now a key participant in the discussion and deciding of major global issues.

Several centuries were needed for democratization and industrialization to take root in Western nations. Since South Korea’s democratization took just 50 years, this has led to problems. Higher average income does not necessarily mean the nation is advanced. National dignity and a mature populace are prerequisites for an advanced nation. South Korea should fix every corner of its society to avoid ridicule as an overnight millionaire with no history.

President Lee Myung-bak told a news conference that the country should use the G20 summit as an opportunity to increase national dignity, saying, “The Republic of Korea’s hosting of next year’s G20 summit means that it will stand at the center of the world instead on Asia’s frontier.” “Soft power” factors such as national dignity and image are more appreciated than traditional “hard power” factors such as economic and military might. Euh Yoon-dae, chairman of the Presidential Council of Nation Branding, said, “Other nations cite North Korea, political problems including violent legislators, and street demonstrations as the country’s negative images.” Foreign Policy magazine of the U.S. has called the National Assembly in Seoul the world’s worst parliament. Plagued by violence and rude talk, the Assembly has negatively affected youths and society.

Many in South Korea still consider violations of law and order as a form of resistance against dictatorship. The country achieved democracy in June, 1987 after mass protests brought down the authoritarian government of Chun Doo-hwan. Violent protests, however, have not changed. Interest groups pursue their own interests in ignoring law and order. South Korea has a long way to go to set up a democratic culture befitting an advanced nation.

While asking legislators and the people to raise national dignity, President Lee failed to mention the attitudes of his administration, the government, public servants and state-run organizations. He as well as the ruling party and government officials should set the example for the people and lawmakers to follow. The country also has a long way to go in administrative transparency and quality of service.