Thursday, August 11, 2011

Koreas rise inspires developing world

Korea’s climb from the devastation of the Korean War (1950-53) to international prominence provides an inspiring model for developing nations, the Peruvian ambassador to Seoul said Friday, underscoring the importance of strong Peru-Korea ties in a globalized world.

“Everybody in the international community is talking about Korea,” Marcela Lopez Bravo told The Korea Times at her office downtown, “because despite not having a lot of natural resources, it has developed rapidly and has a high standing in international affairs.”

The development has seen the country rise from poverty in the aftermath of the fratricidal conflict to become the host of the G20 summit of the world’s leading economies in less than 60 years.

From its export-oriented policies to its integration into the global market; its expertise in technology to its verve for education and its push for sustainable growth, Korea has become a “country worthy of admiration and recognition,” the ambassador said.

That development experience is of particular value to Peru, itself a rapidly developing nation, and the Latin American country is seeking to deepen bilateral ties in order to import more know-how from Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

On the other hand, Peru, rich in commodities such as gold, zinc and silver, is a key supplier of minerals to Korea. Experts say Korea can help secure stable supplies of energy resources by working with the South American state.

It is also seen as an important hub from which Korea can make inroads into the South American market and boost its overall competitiveness in the region.

“We are partners because we have complimentary needs,” she said. “Korea can invest in Peru, and at the same time provide capacity building for our people so we can raise the level of know-how in Peru, especially in technology.”

With strong dialogue channels up to the presidential level and a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) expected to take effect early next year, the future looks bright for the bilateral relations. But it wasn’t always so rosy for either country ­ both have had to climb up from precarious economic situations.

Peru’s rise

While Korea had to rise from the rubble of war, Peru has had its own costly struggle against rebel groups that rose up in the 1980s.
In particular, the Maoist group Shining Path used terrorist tactics in an effort to destabilize the government and replace it with a communist command.

But by bolstering the authority of the state around 1990 under President Alberto Fujimori, Peru gained the upper hand and eventually quelled the insurgencies. But the struggle had taken its toll.

“Back then, the economy was poor in trade and in terms of international affairs,” Lopez Bravo said. “That’s when we decided to pursue the open market, prioritizing policies for strong trade and to invite investment.”

The government took on a bold liberalization of interest and exchange rates as well as international capital flows and outside trade. It also facilitated a comprehensive private ownership of land and improved labor market efficiency. “We gave a new image to investors around the world,” she said.

Since the reforms, Peru’s macroeconomics have flourished - over the last decade it has been the fastest growing economy in Latin America and cut poverty by 16 percent, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Inspiration from Korea

The ambassador pointed to the important role of education in Korea’s rapid rise as a source of inspiration for Peru.

“The education boom in Korea has been at a very high level,” she said, referring to the country’s enthusiasm for learning, which has been credited with a key role in development.

For Peru, it has become a key issue in domestic politics as the country expands its economy. “If our economy rises but we don’t have education, we won’t be able to follow up in a way that improves our image in the international community,” Lopez Bravo said.

“It’s going to be an important issue for our next elections and this is a reflection of the people’s will. They have the will to push our children to be excellent in studies. Korea can be an example in this respect.”

Likewise, the low carbon, green growth initiative prioritized by the Lee Myung-bak administration is also a significant benchmark for Peru, the ambassador said, citing her country’s bid to balance development with environmental concerns such as deforestation in Amazonia.

“We have the responsibility to ensure the sustainable development of this territory,” she said, lauding Korea’s reforestation efforts under former President Park Chung-hee. “After the war, Korea was like a desert. But through a strong forestation policy, now you see that all of South Korea is now green.”

Strong bilateral ties

During the years since the two countries began high-level relations, Peru has consulted Korea on a host of issues regarding development, according to the ambassador.

“For example, we noticed that you had very strong policies to support industrial parks. So we consulted on how to improve our industrial parks using the Korean model,” she said.

Cooperation between the countries has been strong since, with nine Korean companies, including SK Energy Co., involved in resources development projects there and trade expected to jump as the countries gradually cut tariffs on goods over a ten-year period through the FTA.

Peru has signed deals with Korean entities that are helping her country benefit from Korean expertise, such as with the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute for marine technology and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute for peaceful use of nuclear energy.

For Lopez Bravo, the most important aspect of Korea’s development for Peru to glean through bilateral cooperation is its expertise in technology.

“We have similar issues in terms of geopolitics, trade, economy. But we don’t have the advances that Korea has in technology and science,” she said. "We need Korea’s model for technological development to help us grow.”

Projects with Korean companies engaged in Peru are underway or in planning, including entities such as SK, Daewoo and Hyundai. With the implementation of the FTA, exchanges of know-how and resource development are likely to continue at a faster pace.

But more Peruvian professionals coming here to work with Korean companies would be a major boon as well, the ambassador said.

“It would give our professionals experience with excellent conglomerates,” she said. “The people that come here and work with these companies could bring that experience back to Peru.”

Source: The Korea Times

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