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Symposium welcomes former South Korea PM

By Emily Crane
On April 18, 2014

Video credit to Kyle Hayden

Former Prime Minister of the Republic of South Korea Un Chan Chung spoke yesterday on the uncertainties plaguing the Korean peninsula and the role of the United States in the region. The Korean economy is 15th in the world in size and its democracy has been developing steadily over the course of the last three decades but the country's future lies riddled with uncertainties, Chung said.

Korea's first hurdle is to change its emphasis from development to research, Chung said.

"Right now, we're focused on the D side of R&D; we need to switch to the R side," Chung said "Korea finds itself now at the frontier of new technologies, but we need creativity to replace old engines of growth with new ones."

The problem, however, is Korea's educational system does not foster a spirit of creativity, but instead teaches memorization. Chung argued that in order for Korea to move forward into its potential as an economic world power, it will need to reform its educational system.

The second pressing problem facing Korea is the growing income disparity and the disappearance of the middle class. Chung cited recent survey results estimating as little as 20 percent of the population consider themselves to be part of the middle class. In addition, Chung said he was concerned about the lack of regulations in the market that have allowed big companies to take advantage of their market power to undermine smaller companies.

"I'm worried about the commitment of policy-makers to protecting SMES's [small and medium enterprises]," Chung said.

Chung's third and final concern for Korea's future is his country's continued tension with the North.

"North Korea poses the source of the most uncertainties in the Korean Peninsula," Chung said. "North Korea is often unpredictable with dangerous rhetoric and access to nuclear weapons."

The best continued course of action for the establishment of stability in the region is the unification of the two Koreas, Chung said, though this would have to be a peaceful and gradual process. Unification would have positive economic implications stretching beyond the Korean peninsula, Chung said.

"The U.S. stands to gain from the diffusion of the biggest source of tension in this region and a lot of subsequent economic growth," Chung said.

The U.S. ought then to continue to play a central role in the unification of the two Koreas and in developing diplomatic ties between Korea, China and Japan as well.

"The role of the U.S. is crucial because not only does the U.S. have the biggest defense system in the world, it is also the biggest source of soft power and intellectual power," Chung said.

Chung's lecture served as the keynote speech in the Higgin Kim Asia Business Symposium, spearheaded by professor of information systems and analytics Sooun Lee.

Lee said his vision for the symposium was to increased awareness in the Miami community of the importance of learning about Asia.

"I personally believe the future of the global economy largely depends on several Asian powerhouse," Lee said. "This is an important time to understand these countries by opening your hearts to learning about foreign cultures."

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