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Man of the World
Globalization is inevitable, says Kim Dae Jung. Here's how Asia can win

Want to change the world? Many an idealistic youth could get a lesson or two from Kim Dae Jung of Korea. He was a successful twentysomething businessman when he joined the opposition in the 1950s. There he persevered until he won the highest office amid the Asian Crisis in 1997. In between, the dissident-turned-president weathered jail, kidnapping, death sentence and assassination attempts, election defeats and economic crisis to put his stamp on the affairs of Korea, Asia and the world. His ongoing struggles for economic reform and North-South reunification offer inspiration to those working for peace, prosperity and modernization in Asia. In written replies to Asiaweek, Kim Dae Jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, addresses the biggest challenge in coming decades: globalization.

Why should Asia globalize?

Globalization is a historically inevitable path. The entire world will become one market, and nations will cooperate while competing. Economic activities of all nations will be aimed at producing the best but cheapest goods and services and supplying them to the rest of the world, while buying the best and cheapest products from other countries. Any nation will face defeat if it goes against globalization. The age of globalization is also an age of information. Enormous wealth is being created. However, most benefits are enjoyed by advanced nations. The globalization of information must be linked to the globalization of benefits. Otherwise, world peace will suffer, and rampant and indiscriminate development in poor nations will damage the environment.

How should Asia face the challenge of reform?

We must thoroughly implement democracy and market economics to foster competitive strength. We must attract foreign investment; it brings not only capital but also superior management skills and access to overseas markets. And it helps raise the creditworthiness of the nation. Third, we must guarantee a basic standard of living for low-income people, to maintain social stability. This should [include] human resources programs aimed at helping people get jobs easily and raise their earnings in the age of technology. Fourth, all Asian nations should cooperate closely, particularly in Northeast and Southeast Asia, in the belief that they are all part of one East Asian bloc.

How should the region balance outside values with traditional ones to promote prosperity and justice?
It is true that the democratic system as well as scientific developments in Asia lagged behind those in the West over the past 200 years. But the ideas of democracy can be found in Confucianism and Buddhism. Some 2,300 years ago, Mencius, a successor of Confucius, said the king was given a mandate from heaven to govern benevolently. Therefore, the people have the right to rise up in the name of heaven and get rid of any cruel ruler. Buddha also said that of everything above and below heaven, the individual must be respected most. An indigenous Korean religion, Tonghak, exhorted rulers to serve the people as they would serve heaven. Although Asia formulated the democratic idea far ahead of the West, it did not systematize it. The democratic system is the great achievement of Western society. But the philosophical root of democracy coexisted in Asia and the West. Since the root is the same, we are able to adopt the system without much trouble.

How can rich countries bring the fruits of globalization to the poor?

First, advanced countries must help ensure that underdeveloped countries enjoy human rights and freedom. They should help developing nations take maximum advantage of the conditions each one possesses, or help them through international organizations. Developed economies must strengthen the information network to help developing economies benefit from enhanced capabilities. Creditor nations must take drastic measures to pardon debts. Advanced countries must open their doors to products from developing nations.

How do governments convince people to go through the pain of globalization?

We must persuade them that reform is not a matter of choice. It will decide the fate of our countries. We must earn public trust by pushing reform in the financial, corporate, public and labor sectors in a transparent and resolute manner. We must carry out productive welfare. The government will guarantee a living standard for those with absolutely no ability to take care of themselves. But it is important that we provide human development programs in such areas as information capabilities. And since people will not be happy just because we have solved basic problems, it is necessary to improve quality of life through cultural, leisure and sport activities as well as a better environment.

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