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[Op-Ed] Middle Power

Posted October. 27, 2009 07:54,   


Lim Hyeon-jin, a sociology professor at Seoul National University, said that for Korea to sustain development, it must pursue the model of a middle ranking power. He wrote this in the book “Sustainable Development Model and Growth Engine of Korea” published in May and co-authored by him. Lim said Korea is more suitable as a middle power like France and Germany rather than a small power because of the combined 70 million people on the Korean Peninsula -- 48 million in the South, 22 million in the North. Introduced in 2001 by then Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the small power model refers to the building of a “small but powerful country” by focusing on export industries in the manner of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

Philip Bowring, a columnist on Asian economies, said in the New York Times Saturday that international attention on Korea is shifting toward the view of a middle-ranking power. In his contribution “South Korea Rising,” he singled out factors raising the country’s international status, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Korea’s hosting of next year’s Group of 20 summit, the signing of a free trade agreement with the European Union, and efforts to secure more voting power at the International Monetary Fund.

Bowring is a columnist who is highly supportive of Korea. He went so far as to criticize Western media that issued excessive warnings on the Korean economy. Korea saw growth of 2.6 percent growth in the second quarter, the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Koreans need not worry over generous comments on their economy made by foreign media outlets and international assessment agencies in addition to Bowring.

Experts advise, however, that Korea not get overly excited and pompous based on certain economic indicators only. In his visit to Seoul earlier this month, World Bank Vice President James Adams said East Asia is showing a V-shaped recovery in exports and industrial production in the short term, but should not be complacent. With Korea’s rising influence under mounting scrutiny, certain countries are wary of the hard-driving style of Korean companies and their hunger for resources. The Korean government and private sector must take a cautious approach.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)