Cho Soon Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Governing a Global City; Conversation with Cho Soon, Mayor of Seoul; 4/25/96 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by L. Carper

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International Issues

If we might turn to some of the big questions, moving away from city government, what is your long-term view of the way the problem of division of your country will develop?

Well unfortunately, there is quite a bit of uncertainty about the relations between South and North, about the future of North Korea. I am quite sure that North Korea has to change in one way or another, and I am quite sure that North Korea cannot maintain its present structure of the politics of their economic policy and so on. They have to either collapse or change their way of politics and economic management. But how and in what fashion, nobody really knows. Our information on North Korea is extremely limited, so that whatever prediction we make is likely to prove false. I think we will be a united country, but we have to have unification on a soft-landing basis rather than on hard-landing basis. In order to have group unification, the South Korean people and North Korean people have to have just enough understanding of each other, which is currently lacking. What is very much needed is to develop channels of greater information exchange.

Are there other factors that might contribute to a peaceful resolution besides information and knowledge about the other side?

The effort to reduce the arms race, the effort to engage in greater dialogue which will be aided by the participation of the United States and China, for instance; all these would contribute to the soft-landing kind of unification.

What about U.S. - Republic of Korea relations? What is your long-term vision of those relations?

Cho Soon I think U.S. - Korea relations have been developing on a very satisfactory basis. Korea will continue to be a very important country from the point of view of the United States, considering the fact that great uncertainty exists in the Northeast Asian region. Relations between America and China involve a fairly great amount of uncertainty. North Korea - South Korea relations are quite uncertain. Relations between Japan and Korea also are pretty sensitive, and so on. So America has to play the role of sort of the innocent, the go-between or overseer. South Korea or the Korean Peninsula is very much a focal point for the United States in pursuing it's own foreign policy.

Do you think that there will be a balance between America's political and military interests on the one hand and it's trade interests on the other, so that our concerns about trade in the region do not interfere with our interests to be the political and military actor that you're describing?

I think America needs to have a better understanding of Asian problems.

How does one acquire that? By educational exchanges?

Yes, through educational exchanges, by appointing good people to important positions and so on.

If you were looking ahead to working from the great success of the Asian economies, what role does Korea play in that future of the development of the whole region?

Well I think Korea will continue to show fairly good performance. Of course the growth rate will be somewhat slowed down in the future, let us say from say 9 percent per annum to something like 7 percent per annum; but the Korean economy is still fairly young, so that until it becomes more mature it will continue to show vigorous growth, and that will contribute to the rest of Asian development, and to the rest of the world.

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