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On the three factors of “the Miracle on the Han River”

Vasyl MARMAZOV: “An important component of success was a political will of the leadership, which managed to clearly formulate a program of reforms and involve the majority of the society in its realization”
23 April, 11:31

South Korea is quite justly considered to be a miracle on the Han River, because this country over 50 years has practically risen from ashes after the war of 1950-53. Everyone can make sure of this by visiting the state. Everyone knows the Samsung Corporation, whose production is present in all corners of the world. But the roads and infrastructure our country can only dream of are even more impressive. Another attribute of Korea is the fact that its car production, which is successfully competing with the world brands, is predominant on its territory. Hence the question, how has South Korea managed to achieve this success, in spite of the fact that most of the resources are located namely in the northern part of Korea?

The first time I had an opportunity to ask this question was during my visit to the UN Memorial Cemetery in Korean town of Busan. International affairs director at memorial cemetery Leo DeMay told The Day that he started to love Korea after the first visit to the grave of his father, who was killed in the war of 1950-53 and was buried in this cemetery. “Frankly speaking, the Koreans were working really hard. But you should also remember that 55 UN member countries gave grants and loans to Korea, so that it could work the miracle. And they should be paid their due: they did this. Whereas many other countries used the loans to survive, Koreans used them for development. Another interesting thing is that there is no religious discrimination here. Koreans live very harmoniously, no matter what their religion is. Besides, a distinguishing feature is great nationalism. Sometimes nationalism is positive, and sometimes it is totally non-useful. In case with Korea it was very positive and helped to build the country from ashes. And I greatly respect this.”

The Day interviewed Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Vasyl MARMAZOV in Seoul.

Mr. Ambassador, how did Koreans manage to turn their country from ashes into “a Miracle on the Han River”?

“What we call ‘the Miracle on the Han River’ is indeed one of the most outstanding achievements of present-day South Korea, and the Korean people are rightly proud of it. In fact their starting position was much worse than in Ukraine at the beginning of the 1990s. It can be compared to the situation we had after the World War II. Therefore it is even more impressive how over a short period of time they have managed to achieve so considerable results in the development of the country. There is no doubt that the determinative role was played by the mentality of the Korean people and its values based on the Confucian ethics and moral. An important component of the success was also the political will of the leadership of South Korea, which in the 1960s could formulate a clear program of reforms and involve the majority of the society in its realization. So, at that time certain harsh administrative measures were taken, but it produced a needed result on the whole. Thirdly, Koreans understood that they would not cope with the renewal of the country and integration in the world economic system on their own. Therefore they actively involved the international aid from certain countries and international financial structures that supported South Korea. These factors produced a result. But I would put on the first place the peculiarities, the individual features of the Korean people who are distinguished because of their ability to work and high organization. The most important thing is that they saw a concrete goal and they have achieved it. But it does not mean that present-day South Korea does not have any problems, including the economic ones.”

International affairs director of the UN memorial cemetery in Busan, Canadian Leo DeMay said that one of the reasons of success is that in spite of the presence of three religious, they do not take an aggressive stand against one another.

“This is true. In South Korea Christianity is spread, although historically a large part of the population is professing Buddhism. And in spite of the fact that currently Koreans keep to different religious beliefs, on the whole the Confucian traditions and principles are predominating. Some researchers who study the Korean society say that namely the combination of Confucianism and Christianity allowed mobilizing the majority of the population to overcome the challenges the Korean society was facing after the Korean War.”

Some people note that South Korea owes its success to its healthy nationalism. What can you say about that?

“I would call it patriotism. Clearly, the resistance to colonial rule, the events of the Korean War, the not simple relations between two Koreas, competition between South Korea and its neighboring countries stimulated nationalism to a certain extent. Koreans emphasize that they belong to their nation, they are proud of their national symbols. I can see this during the national holidays when they sincerely react to their flag, other state and religious symbols. But this does not mean that the country treats representatives of other nationalities with disdain, even the ones they have historically had not simple relations with. I have never witnessed any intolerance or aggression towards foreigners.”

Does the fact that Koreans consider themselves a nation that was born 5,000 years ago influence their mentality somehow?

“There is no doubt about this. But the history of this region was not simple. They have had many tragic events, there have been collisions, struggle between different centers of influence. Yet they have preserved their identity during the quite harsh colonial period, when they were discriminated, and Korean language and belonging to Korean nation was forbidden. There was discrimination when people were appointed to administration posts.”

I had an opportunity to ask the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Korea, why the country does not implement sanctions against Russia, unlike the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan. He answered that South Korea is trying hard, but this is a very delicate question because Russia has a special status as a participant of the Six-Party Talks concerning the North Korean nuclear problem, which is why South Korea cannot do this. Do you share the opinion that this might prevent Seoul from joining the sanctions against Russia?

“First of all, I must stress that the Republic of Korea was one of the co-authors of the resolution of the General Assembly of UN that supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine. After that South Korea has made several statements which condemned the intrusion into the home affairs of Ukraine, and it supported the achievement of certain agreements in Minsk. Now they are extremely interested in full realization of the Minsk agreements. As for the sanctions, this question is really sensitive for South Korea, which is economically bound with Russia. You have rightly noted that Russia is a participant of Six-Party Talks on the DPRK problems. At the same time South Korea wants to render assistance to Ukraine. The representatives of this country will take part in the International Conference on Support of the Reforms in Ukraine, which will take place in the end of April in Kyiv. As for the parliamentary circles, I have had an opportunity to communicate with the members of the National Assembly too. They are really interested in the situation in Ukraine. Past month a delegation of South Korean high-profile parliamentarians visited Ukraine. In the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea a group of friendship with Ukraine has been functioning for a long time, and it includes representatives of both, the ruling party and the opposition. This is the reason why the parliamentary support can be felt. But at the end I would mention the fact that the President of the Republic of Korea Park Geun-hye refused to take part in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of victory in the World War II on May 9 this year in Moscow. All this notwithstanding the Korean people honors this date and suffered severe losses during the World War II and the Korean War. But this is a certain political step too. Therefore I would put it this way: Seoul condemns the intrusion into the home affairs of our country and violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our state. Secondly, South Korea wants to render maximum support, both in terms of politics, and on the economic level.”

Incidentally, an editorial article in The Korea Times reads that the South Korean president had to go to Moscow to shake hands with the North Korean leader and start a political dialog in such a way. How popular are such views in this country?

“It is normal thing. The Republic of Korea is a democratic country. The foreign policy of the current administration is criticized. There are people who support the meeting of the two leaders in Moscow. Incidentally, the participation of Kim Jong-un in the abovementioned event has not been confirmed yet. As for the meeting of the two leaders, both of them must be ready for it. President of South Korea Park Geun-hye, when she was speaking about the possibility of negotiations with the leader of the DPRK, has many times stated that there is no need for a meeting just ‘for the sake of the meeting.’”

Last time I visited South Korea during the Nuclear Summit in 2012. Our delegation was meeting with the executives of Samsung and Hyundai Motors and discussed the plans of assembling the automobiles in Ukraine. What is going on with these plans now? How is the cooperation with South Korea developing?

“I will be frank. The recent events in Ukraine (both political and economical) have halted realization of many projects that had been developed over the previous three years. But they remain topical. This is a project in the sphere of agriculture: a number of serious companies are interested in creation of a proper infrastructure for processing the agriculture production and its further export to other markets. Automobile construction is a regular topic. The consultations between the Ukrainian and Korean car producers are underway. As for the IT sphere, Samsung continues to work actively in Ukraine. So, a scientific-research center created by this company and employing 2,000 people, mainly Ukrainians, have been successfully operating in Kyiv (it is one of the largest centers in Eastern Europe). And we are cooperating in the sphere of space research. We launch Korean satellites by launch vehicles assembled in Ukraine from a Russian space launch facility. Today we have all prerequisites for further development of these projects.”

Are common features of Ukraine and South Korea used sufficiently in our cooperation?

“If we draw parallels between the histories of Korea and Ukraine, we have many similar features, although we are located far from each other. Even the fact that there is a big Korean diaspora in Ukraine also indicates that we have many possibilities and connections to develop our cooperation. And the Korean experience of modernization is extremely interesting. At the moment there are many European countries that are looking for ways to cooperate with South Korea, draw Korean investments to the European economy. Correspondingly, European companies are entering the Korean market. Therefore Ukraine cannot be limited to one direction only. We are a part of Europe, we are integrating in the European economic space, but we must remember that the world is global, and there are other dynamic centers, the countries with extremely interesting potential. Therefore it is not accidental that in March this year Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin paid visit to Japan, and now we are working on organization of an exchange of visits of the heads of the foreign departments of Ukraine and the Republic of Korea. All this indicates that in Kyiv there is an absolute understanding of the importance of development of a mutually favorable cooperation with North East Asia and other Asian centers. The potential of this cooperation is really great, first and foremost in the sphere of economy.”

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