Nicole Spewak | News Editor
“Without American sacrifice, Korea would not be on the map today,” said Choi Young-jin, Korean ambassador to the United States, in a lecture at Wheaton College.
Choi delivered a lecture and Q-and-A session on Monday, Sept. 24, relating the importance of the Korea-United States relationship and the impact of trade on East-West relations. Congressman Peter Roskam introduced Choi by describing the “overwhelming sense of gratitude” Koreans feel toward Americans, stating that it is something that sets them apart. He cited the story of his own father, who served in the Korean War, and how Koreans thank him when they learn of his father’s service.
Roskam also accompanied Choi to a commemorative event at Memorial Park that honored Korean War veterans 59 years after the military armistice was signed on July 27, 1953.
During the lecture, Choi explained his optimistic view of continued Asian-American cooperation and spoke about ongoing tensions among the nations. The cornerstone of Choi’s outlook was the shift of countries from a military paradigm of conquest to a trade paradigm of interdependence.
“Cooperation and interdependence have become more important than competition and independence,” Choi said.
Choi fleshed out these two concepts by first explaining the change created in Asia by the supplanting of the military paradigm with that of trade.
The end of World War II marked the beginning of the Pacific Era, when “America shifted their center of gravity to the Pacific,” Choi said. This refocusing allowed for Japan, China and Korea to begin dynamic economic growth through trade, he said.
This economic success created through trade produced interdependence. Consequently, Choi believes there will be no more wars in Asia, but rather trade friction.
With this in mind, Choi explained that the continuing conflicts over island territories in Asia will not result in military conflict because the economies of Japan, Korea and China are too interconnected through trade and tourism, forcing the leaders of the countries to settle matters peacefully.
Choi said that trade does not defuse all the tensions among the nations, but it does give a basis to engage the issues. In talking about the rise of China, Choi explained that through trade military conflict can be avoided, and the ideals and values of democracy can be transferred into China.
“China can be a partner with us,” Choi said, but it requires proper planning.
Discussing North Korea, Choi said that North Koreans are clinging to a militaristic paradigm. As a result, they are a poor country and remain disconnected from the trade the rest of Asia is experiencing. Choi said that North Korea must join the trade paradigm, but that North Korea must make that decision by itself.
Friction between Korea and Japan is likely to continue as well, Choi said, because Japan refuses to admit to human rights violations they have inflicted on the Korean people in the past.
As evidence of the success and progress of the trade paradigm and Asia-U.S. relations, Choi referenced the free trade agreement the United States enacted with Korea last year, and the other countries that have since sought to join.
Photo credit: Lauren Drobyski.
Printed in the September 28, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.