Times Forum; Korea,Japan Share Close Ties amid Competition

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), September 22, 2000 | Go to article overview

Times Forum; Korea,Japan Share Close Ties amid Competition


Korea is the nearest neighbor to Japan and has been through history together. At times, the two thought of each other as foundations for development, sometimes as enemies and competitors, and other times as cooperating partners for each other's benefit.

Korea and Japan have a special relationship, and with the start of the new millennium, they are facing another challenge in history.

Korea is experiencing the pains of having to reform its worn-out economic structure based on the speedy growth period of the past, through the national difficulty of the ``financial crisis.'' Japan is also experiencing economic difficulties of ``the largest long-term depression,'' in spite of the past achievements of economic power.

These hardships of the two countries, with the start of the millennium, tell us many things. In the economic age where knowledge and technology changes at the speed of light, the methods and ways of thinking of the past are not enough to cope with the new world.

The two countries are learning that in the globalized world where all markets form a network, the fate of a country cannot be developed on its own.

Northeast Asia's economic power

In addition to such difficulties, the 21st century also gives the two countries a chance to lead the millennium by the rise of Northeast Asia as the center of the global economy.

The economies of the three countries of Korea, China and Japan account for one-fifth of the global economy, and the fact that they are showing

continuous growth and activity shows that they have high economic potential compared with the Western economies, centered on the United States and Europe.

The Northeast Asian area also has strong mutual complementary measures and competitive power in almost all fields such as resources, technology, capital, and market. Therefore, there is a good chance of forming an individual economy.

In spite of such potential, the three countries of Northeast Asia have pursued their own one-set economies, and the result is that mutual complementary trade is insufficient within the area, and out of the area, they have to compete and sell similar products.

The three countries of NAFTA account for 45.4 percent of trade within the area, and EU 65.7 percent. On the contrary, the three countries of Korea, China and Japan add up to only 17.3 percent.

This indicates that even though the market is not unified, compared with the geographical proximity and innate trade characteristics, it is at a very low level. Without reforming this economic structure, there will be limits to creating a synergy effect, strong enough to lead the global economy.

Korea and Japan are competitors in such industries as automobile, shipbuilding, steel and electronics, therefore in the industry development level, a ``flying geese industrial structure'' is formed in the order of Japan, Korea and China.

This brings a vicious circle of overheated competition and vertical division system. As a result, Korea can't solve the red-ink balance of payments in trade with Japan, and an unbalanced trade structure is setting in place.

Transferring this vicious circle to a non-vicious one will be the first step to the Northeast Asian cooperation, and for the three countries of Northeast Asia to shed off the one-set economy and establish a balance in horizontal and reciprocal expansion, they will have to form a new structure of cooperation on the basis of industrial complementary relations.

Economic cooperation with Japan

After President Kim Dae-jung was inaugurated as president, there was reconsideration over the claim that Korea would not be able to face t e 21th century under such conditions.

Korea has accommodated ``Global Standards'' and ``Open Internationalism'' and put effort in reforming the systems of the past to form a democratic economic structure, in which major companies and small- and medium- sized companies form a balance. …

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