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Understanding Korea-PH ties

05:01 AM November 20, 2017

I have read Kim Young-sun’s commentary in the Inquirer (“Asean and Korea: a common destiny,” 11/11/17). He said, “The partnership over the decades has become one where they not only need each other but also want each other. To continue this path, the two should not seek immediate benefits but develop a genuine partnership that will last for hundreds of years.”

As someone who has lived and worked with Asean countries most of my adult life, it is indeed heartwarming to read such perspective coming from a former Korean ambassador. I have lived in the Philippines for the last 50 years including four years in the University of the Philippines where I obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics (most probably the first Korean who graduated from UP in 1972).

Kim also emphasized, during the 2017 Korea-Philippines/Korea-Asean Partnership Forum the importance of “mutual understanding […] at the foundation of closer socio-economic and political-security ties.” I could not agree with him more. However, the starting point of understanding is information and communication among ordinary people.

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I am not aware of any decent statistics on Korean population in the Philippines, much less on Korean community profile for policymaking. Secondly, Korean media cover mostly negative news about the Philippines. On the other hand, Philippine media are fairly objective in covering Korean news. Somebody should investigate the source of this imbalance in media treatment. Thirdly, Korean ambassadors should practice more creative diplomacy in their respective areas of assignment in response to the call for federalism of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. His federalism is not limited to the structural aspects but more on bottom-up creative ideas of government officials.

Ambassadors are in the best position to learn and understand the local culture and transmit the knowledge back home for policymaking. Unfortunately, my 55 years of foreign residency and experience tell me otherwise. Where does these ineptitude originate from? Does this failure emanate from Korea’s elite culture, bureaucratic system, educational system or leadership? Or, perhaps, all of the above?

Ambassadors should get out of “play safe” and “no mistake” attitude and venture out to learn local culture, Korean community included, and even discover few local talents along the way. This is what I want to understand when Kim said we should “want each other” and “not only need each other.” Then perhaps better “mutual understanding” could be founded at the federal level.

I hope our communication will continue and contribute to the better understanding of Korea-Philippines partnership in the spirit of federalism.

YONGCHAN KIM, Quezon City

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TAGS: Asean, Inquirer letters, Kim Young Sun, Philippines, South Korea, Yongchan Kim
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