The speed and determination with which South Korea rose from war-torn poverty to innovative leadership amazed the world. Sungchul Chung examines the lessons to be learned by others seeking to emulate its success.

The World Economic Forum announced its selection of Global Growth Companies (GGCs) regional finalists for East Asia. As regional finalists, the six companies have been given the opportunity to join the larger GGC community at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The economy

Economists generally agree that the cumulative economies of China and India will be larger than that of the G7 by 2030. At present, China’s GCP stands at $9.2 trillion, or nearly 5 times that India.

Russia and the US share the fact that they are both Atlantic and Pacific powers although Russia is essentially a land-based power with the largest proportion of its land located in Asia. In fact, of all the countries around the Pacific, Russia has the longest coastline.

China spent much of 2014 seeking to revive a concept that Japan proclaimed seven decades ago, when it was an imperial power seeking to impose its will on the region: “Asia for the Asians.” But that effort may not end as badly for China as it did for Japan.

Japan’s population of 127 million, of which nearly a quarter is over 65, is on a long-term downward trend, and is expected to lose one third of its inhabitants by 2050 and by two thirds in 2100. It has the world’s longest life expectancy and the lowest child mortality rate. The aging population translates into a population that is rapidly both aging and shrinking.

The Chinese remember something that has been mostly forgotten by other nations. Namely, that is only these last 150 years that the country has had the status of what we would call today a ‘developing’ or ‘emerging’ country. Therefore, from the point of view of both the government and its simplest citizens, the country is simply regaining its previous status of one of the world’s largest – if not the largest – economy and the world’s largest exporter.

Speaking as former Secretary General of the Council of Europe on de-escalation on the Korean Peninsula, on peace and security in Eastern Asia is a real challenge. For millenniums Europe itself was far away from forming unity and providing peace. On the contrary, the smallest of all continents has been the scene of many wars, some of them called the “100 years war” or the “30 years war”.

Why is (the Korean peninsula and East) Asia unable to capitalize (on) its successes

Speculations over the alleged bipolar world of tomorrow (the so-called G-2, China vs. the US), should not be an Asian dilemma. It is primarily a concern of the West that, after all, overheated China in the first place with its (outsourced business) investments. Hence, despite a distortive noise about the possible future G-2 world, the central security problem of Asia remains the same: an absence of any pan-continental multilateral setting on the world’s largest continent. The Korean peninsula like no other Asian theater pays a huge prize because of it.

Why is Europe able to manage its decline, while Asia is (still) unable to capitalize (on) its success?

Following the famous saying allegedly spelled by Kissinger: “Europe? Give me a name and a phone number!” (when – back in early 1970s – urged by President Nixon to inform Europeans on the particular US policy action), the author is trying to examine how close is Asia to have its own telephone number.

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