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Korea as seen by foreign press

President Lee Myung-bak holds a press conference following the conclusion of the Seoul G-20 summit on November 12, 2010 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).President Lee Myung-bak holds a press conference following the conclusion of the Seoul G-20 summit on November 12, 2010 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).

During the last four years of the Lee Myung-bak administration, the foreign media has shed light on Korea’s economic growth and its background. As Korea became the first non-G8 nation to host the G20 Summit in Seoul in 2010, the country received attention for taking responsibility as a global leader by pursuing the inclusion of the Development Agenda. Free trade agreements and K-pop emerged as the most frequented subjects of articles on Korea.

After barely overcoming the fiscal crisis of 2008 triggered from the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, the world’s economy is still in a double-dip slump. Amid growing doubt over future economic prospects, Korea recorded positive growth over the past three consecutive years, peaking last December when it reached USD 1 trillion in trade.

Mark Mackinnon from Canada’s The Globe and Mail took notice of Korea’s “impressive economic growth.” In an article on June 24, 2010 the author points out -- quoting his interview with the South Korean President -- that “with the lessons taken from the financial crisis in 1997, the Republic of Korea has been able to surmount the global economic crisis rather successfully.”

In “Selling South Korea: Lee Myung-bak wants to move his country to the center of the world” published in January 2010, Newsweek analyzed that “President Lee Myung-bak wants to turn the end of the economic crisis into an opportunity,” urging to “revive momentum on a global free-trade deal.” Quoting the OECD, which had expected South Korea’s GDP to mark the highest growth rate among OECD member nations in 2010, the author remarked on South Korea’s transformation from a “successful but self-involved economic power into a respected global soft power with the clout to mediate between rich and poor nations on global issues such as climate change and financial regulation.”

Korea’s unprecedented transformation from aid recipient to donor country in a single generation emerged as the focus of renewed attention following the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in the Korean port city of Busan. During the conference, both foreign and Korean newspapers covered stories on the nation’s “rise in economic power from near-worst to almost-first.”

The Los Angeles Times featured an article on November 29, 2011, which asserted that “the start of a three-day forum on global aid strategies is no less than a ’rags to riches’ story.

In addition, Korea’s engagement in the process of globalization through free trade also aroused international attention along with a series of free trade pacts Korea signed with Chile, the EU, and the U.S., among other countries.

Featuring coverage on the KORUS free trade agreement, Nikkei reported on October 14, 2011 that the trade pact will “make life tougher for Japanese firms,” calling it “a move that would put Japanese rivals at an even greater disadvantage.”

On the cultural front, K-pop fever continues to impress the world. The BBC broadcasted coverage of the Korean wave, assessing Korea’s cultural content as having joined the ranks of Korean multinational companies and their cars or electronics for the young generation, in particular.

In conjunction with the first performance of an Asian pop group in Madison Square Garden with the SMTown Live World Tour, the New York Times covered the K-pop in a music review on October 25. “In the past few years K-pop has shown a creeping global influence,” wrote Jon Caramanica. “Many acts release albums in Korean and Japanese, a nod to the increasing fungibility of Asian pop.”

*Adapted from Weekly Gonggam Magazine
Translated by Hwang Dana
Korea.net Staff Writer

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