KOREA: Shaping a New Era...
Student Text Page No. 3: "In Today's World"
November 2006: The meeting ends…. People at the conference table nod
to one another. These high-level experts — engineers, media specialists,
business leaders, community planners — have just shared their insights
and advice with government officials. Now they leave the room with a common
goal: to make South Korea a global player in the consumer-robot industry.
South Korea's factories have had robotic tools for years. Its engineers
have designed robots that can walk, talk, and interact with nearby objects.
(In fact, robot soccer was invented in South Korea!) But this new project
— to design and mass-produce robots that perform everyday services
in homes and public places! That's a big challenge....
Wired... It's the kind of challenge South Koreans have met before.
At the end of the Korean Conflict (1950-53), they were impoverished. Yet,
with the aid and urging of their government, they began producing export
goods — advancing from small items, to cars, to semiconductors.
Now that they have a solid economy, they're being urged to create next-generation
products: fuel-cell cars, lithium batteries, robots. Can they succeed?
The odds are good. South Koreans are already building a high-tech world.
Three fourths of their homes are connected to the Internet by broadband.
About 75 percent of those over age 6 use the Net. And more than 80 percent
use mobile phones. (In fact, that young Seoulite watching the ancient
mask dance is blogging about it on her mobile!...)
Preparing... South Korea is a thriving democratic society with
a big export economy. Yet, like other nations, it can be affected by global
trends. Examples: South Korea's exporters now face competition from countries
where lower-paid workers turn out lower-priced goods. Corporate leaders
in "old" industries now find that global concern about climate
change is creating a demand for new, "greener" products. And
workers now know that staying employed in a changing economy means learning
new skills. In South Korea, the government plays a big role in responding
to such changes. Under the "Vision 2030" policy of President
Roh Moo-hyun, the government provides free Internet service to el-hi schools.
It promotes online education for millions of adults, and skills-retraining
for retirees. Its budget includes funds for research in high-tech industries
(biomedicine, for example). And its leaders vigorously pursue new trade
World ties. South Korea has trading partners around the world
— from Asia, to members of the European Union, to the USA. It has
permanent free-trade agreements (FTAs) with some of them and is negotiating
FTAs with others. South Korea is also a member of the World Trade Organization.
And it co-founded the "Group of 20 Industrialized Nations" (G-20),
in which leaders of the world's largest economies discuss the flow of
trade and capital around the globe. But economic issues are not the only
focus of South Korea's foreign policy. It is committed to world peace.
And it works closely with the World Health Organization and other humanitarian
programs in the UN. Indeed, in January 2007, South Korea's former foreign
minister, Ban Ki-moon, became the UN's Secretary-General.
Ponder This... In 2004, South Korea rolled out its new high-speed
railway (KTX) — one of the world's fastest. Watching sleek trains
race across their landscape, South Koreans dream of the day when this
railway will connect to tracks all across Eurasia. But, as prosperous
as they are, only reconciliation with North Korea can make that dream
come true. Will the "two Koreas" end their long separation?
Can they open their mutual border to peace and cooperation? The time
seems right. In today's high-tech global village, people seek links —
not walls. Perhaps the two Koreas will join them, remembering these words
from Hong Yun Suk's poem, "Life": You must build a bridge to reach