Friday, January 28, 2011

An Update: U.S.-Korean Relations 2011

An Evening with Dr. Chung Un-chan, former South Korea Prime Minister

On January 26, 2011, the University of California, San Diego Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) sponsored a lecture by Dr. Chung Un-chan. A former president of Seoul National University and Prime Minister of South Korea, Dr. Chung’s career bridges both academia and government.

The well-attended lecture shared to students, faculty, and distinguished guests, Dr. Chung’s timely thoughts and views on U.S. -Korean relations, while offering suggestions for strengthening future ties into the 21st Century. Dr. Chung stressed the need for both nations to be More Open, More Confident, and More Compassionate. Highlights of his lecture included the importance of education, study abroad, and first-hand experience of other cultures.

Dr. Chung Un-chan
Following the lecture, I was invited to attend a diner with Dr. Chung hosted by IRPS Dean Peter Cowhey. In attendance was Professor emeritus Larry Krause, Professor Stephan Haggard, Professor You, Jong-sung, Professor Gordon Hansen, and Dr. Byong Mok Kim, M.D.

I also had the opportunity to share with Dr. Chung a copy of Chemulpo to Songdo IBD. A number of UCSD IRPS graduate students had assisted in the crafted of the book, including Professor You, Jong-sung.

Over the course of three hours, discussions covered a wide range of Korea-facing topics, including KORUS FTA, the Six Way talks, North Korea’s recent aggression against South Korea, China-Korea-U.S. relations, North Korea refuges, the future role of U.S. military forces in South Korea, and North-South unification.

During the diner I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at length with Dr. Chung on issues and concerns that impact Korea-facing global business. I was also asked by Dean Cowhey to share with Dr. Chung and the distinguished faculty my experiences and the challenges working with global Korea-based Groups and international firms entering the Korea market.

That said, one point I raised to Dr. Chung and group was concerns by many of my clients over North Korea acts of aggression against South Korea and the constant saber rattling. Dr. Chung acknowledged such concern and noted that one outcome of the recent incidents was a huge shift in younger Korean’s views of the North---most now less tolerant of the North in light of the December 2010 shelling of civilians. Moreover, Dr. Chung and the others scholars felt the recent aggression had greatly strengthened U.S.-South Korean relations; with America reaffirming it’s support of South Korea.

Although North Korea continues to perplex even those with deep insights into the regime, I feel that the consensus is that the status quo will continue in North Korea and the peninsula into the near future.

One final point I raised to Dr. Chung stressed the challenges to entering the South Korean market. Dr. Chung’s answer was quite frank---he felt Korea was already a “very open market.” He pointed out that language and communications were issues, but added that when compared to Japan, China, and other nations, Korea was very open to trade, business, and commerce. Moreover, Dr. Chung noted than when he was Prime Minister he oversaw the elimination of hundreds of regulations.

On a personal note, I found Dr. Chung very approachable and taking a real interest in questions posed to him by the IRPS facility and guests.

Questions? Comments?

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