Carnet diplomatique: How South Korea Rose From The Ruins Of War

Ambassador Bok-Ryeol Rhyou gave a lecture in Yaounde yesterday at the launch of Korea Week.

South Korea is today a model of economic transformation, barley 70 years after the devastation of the 1950-1953 war with North Korea. The war and previous Japanese colonial occupation left the country in tatters, putting it at the same level of development with several African nations in the 1960s. But South Korea has since risen from the ruins of war, becoming the world’s 11th largest economy today.

The details were given in a lecture at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, IRIC, Yaounde on October 25, 2018 by Ambassador Bok-Ryeol Rhyou. Prof. Mol Nang, Vice Rector for Research, Cooperation and Relations with Enterprises, represented the University of Yaounde II at the event. IRIC Director, Dr Samuel Ehet and Zacharie Perevet, the Minister of Employment and Vocational Training, were also present.

With theme, “Policy on the Korean Peninsula,” the lecture marked the launch of the 2018 Korea Week that runs until October 30. South Korea is ranked 18th in the world according to the Human Development Index, with annual exports of 600 billion US dollars (345,792.5 billion FCFA). On the other hand, 97 per cent of children are in school, giving the country the world’s lowest illiteracy rate. “In five decades, South Korea has moved from a receiver of foreign aid to a donor,” Bok-Ryeol noted.

The Ambassador attributed her country’s phenomenal achievements to visionary leadership, government initiative, hard work, discipline, close monitoring and follow-up of projects, good education and training. Good governance, incentives to private enterprises, their efficiency, promotion of value-adding local production and the implementation of five-year development plans, helped in propelling the country to rapid industrialisation. Implementation of “Saemaul” or the New Village rural development policy in 1970 became a game changer. “Rural life was transformed, greatly curbing poverty,” she underscored. Because of its huge success, the Saemaul model of development has since been emulated by several countries. “The opposite of human dignity is humiliation,” Bok-Ryeol said, citing a French author. “South Koreans rose above this saying. It is time for us to assist others after being recipients of aid,” she added.

The Ambassador also revisited recent developments in the Korean Peninsula. She cited as catalyst last April’s summit in Panmunjom, South Korea, and that of last September in Pyongyang, North Korea, between North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in. She said these encounters paved the way for Pyongyang’s discussions with the US and other partners on making the peninsula safer. South Korea and Cameroon established diplomatic relations in 1961. Ties have since grown from strength to strength, with cooperation agreements signed in several areas. South Korean exports to Cameroon are mainly in the areas of phones and other electronic products; while Cameroon exports raw material like timber. Annual trade between the two sides currently stands at 85 million US dollars (48.9 billion FCFA). Seoul has offered assistance to Cameroon-based refugees and constructed health and vocational training facilities.

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