South Korea is expected to see its per capita GDP surpass US$20,000 and its population exceed 50 million this month, making it the seventh full member of the "20-50 Club" of developed countries.
Since South Korea's per capita GDP first surpassed that of Taiwan in 2004, the gap between the two countries has continued to widen.
Many critics believe that South Korea's achievements are attributable to its internal unity, which enables the nation to make full use of its strength in developing its economy.
In fact, South Korea's liberalization is the result of cooperation between the government and its conglomerates to suppress trade unions and farmers. In other words, once the South Korean government decides on its direction, it will seek to attain its goals at all costs.
What Taiwan really needs to learn from South Korea is the determination demonstrated by the South Korean government in opening its doors to the world. South Korea is now the country that has signed the largest number of free trade agreements, with 36.22 percent of its exports enjoying tariff-free treatment.
If South Korea signs FTAs with China and Japan, the percentage of its tariff-free exports will increase to 72.73 percent.
In promoting the signing of FTAs with other countries, the South Korean government has set up a foreign affairs and trade think tank to study the country's overall economic and trade strategies. Various big companies have also established research divisions and are collaborating with the government in expanding the country's global market and training negotiation talent.
When looking at the differences between South Korea and Taiwan, we should examine whether their governments have taken the lead in presenting a vision and whether they have allowed partisan struggles to distort the direction of national development. (Editorial abstract -- June 5, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)