In this constantly developing and evolving world, change is a constant and common process. With the changes that the world undergoes, people, organizations, governments, and nations undergo the crucial processes that make them better and improve in achieving their goals and aspirations.
This process of change and development appears to be a necessary occurrence since the world is as well undergoing globalization and modernization. As a result, nations are opting to widen their horizons and integrate newer cultures, practices, technologies, ideologies, and lifestyles increasing opportunities for national growth and progress.
However, the choice to embrace modernity also has several drawbacks. One of these disadvantages is the tendency of a nation to lose its heritage, culture, and ancient tradition and identity. A lot of nations have already sacrificed these things for the sake of better opportunities and competencies with the rest of the world. However, interestingly and impressively, there are other countries which are able to preserve and maintain their identity and heritage along with their effort to incorporate globalization and modernity in their policies.
One of the successful countries which are able to maintain their identity and stability as a nation is the Asian tiger country, Korea. Its success story seems to be telling the world that although many nations appear to maintain a skeptical outlook in pushing through nationalism alongside modernization, Park and Sung of the South and North Korea seem to agree and believe that nationalism is actually modernization’s prerequisite.
The Country’ Secrets to its Survival and Competency
Just like any other country, Korea has also experienced failures and ruination (Park 118). During the earlier times, it can be recalled that Korea faced several challenges that tested their unity as a nation and eventually resulted in a fatal blow to its unity, dividing the country into a communist (North Korea) and a republican (South Korea) state.
This division is not the only trial the nation has faced. Its history reveals a lot of other predicaments such as problems in autonomy in governance, inability to stand alone as a nation, rebellions, and lack of united efforts (Park 118). These were the main reasons why the people of Korea have undergone a process of rest and inactivity for an extended period of time.
As a result, it became difficult for Koreans themselves to look at their national history as a reflection of their individuality as a nation since it only reflects how far apart their ideologies have been separated. This served as the leeway for the country to finally realize its potential for modernity. The dictator President Park of South Korea realized this potential. During the 1970’s, he realized that what the country needed was indeed modernization and the acceptance for change and development.
Thus, the importance of the democratic revolution was once again given emphasis. During that time, he suggested to his people that their nation was then facing the challenge of globalization and embracing modernity. His endeavor to pursue such action was clearly reflected in this excerpt from his book, Our Nation’s Path: “Our nation is now faced with the task of modernization. The goal of our democratic revolution is to accomplish this task, which has remained unsolved since the days when the Western European great powers started their advance to the Orient” (Park 119).
Because of this mission, Park was forced to device policies and plans in order to make his people cooperate in pursuing modernity. Considering this new challenge, many nations kept a skeptical mind about the success of Korea. Some thought that rather than helping Korea to step up in terms of modernity, this move would only hasten their downfall.
This was the notion that President Park also tried to disprove. He pushed the idea of strengthening the nation’s nationalism as it can be considered as their voice and expression of their willingness and commitment to survive in the larger diplomatic arena in the face of their stronger competitors (Park 120).
The former president also stressed that South Korea must prove that their fight for liberation in 1945 was not put to waste. He emphasized that the republic must disregard all selfish intents and fight for self-reliance for unity and the common good. Aside from this, Park also focused on working out various other aspects the Republic must address like poverty and the construction of a healthy democracy (Park 120). These were just some of the leader’s moves and game plans in pushing through Korea’s survival in the modern world.
On the other hand, in the communist part of the country, different strategies were also enacted. Former leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, pushed for a peaceful reunification instead of an aggressive fight for modernization, and his efforts to pursue this were explicitly stated in his New Year speech in January 1972 (Sung 175).
He stressed that over the years, the discussion for reunification has been the only topic and idea that has alleviated the distress of his fellow countrymen. For him, the country’s ultimate unity of working towards modernization shall only be possible if they will be reunified as one country again:
The entire people of north and south Korea are very glad that such contact between the north and south has been materialized, though belatedly, and are unanimous in expressing the hope that the talks pave the sure way of pulling down the barriers between the north and south and materializing the peaceful reunification of the country. (Sung 175)
This reflects the leader’s firm and affirmative attitude in pushing through the unification of the country. According to Sung, true unity is the key that will help the nation in establishing a stronger spirit of nationalism which will also help its people to embrace the idea of working together to achieve modernization. He stressed that seeing his fellow Koreans in a constant state of anxiety and restlessness upset him as a leader and made him realize that what the country needs is peaceful reunification as modernization’s prerequisite.
In various ways, this perspective appears different from what President Park was emphasizing. However, if it would be analyzed thoroughly, both leaders are actually leaning towards mobilizing their people to work towards modernization. From this alone, it can be inferred that the nation shares a communal goal of accepting change and development.
The Formation of Political Rules as the Platform and Foundation of Modernization
Considering that Korea has withstood various challenges including chaos, colonization, and lack of united movement and a united government, a lot of mending and reconstruction have been necessary in order to achieve the anticipated modernization. Aside from the necessary information dissemination on globalization and modernization to the public, the governments in both the North and South Korea also needed to gauge and evaluate the price they have to pay in order to attain modernization.
President Park, with optimistic attitude towards nationalism, implemented political rules inclined towards the economic and social reforms that appear necessary for the country to succeed in reconstruction and building a stronger economic platform (122). This was Park’s idea of what the country has to do in order to fully embrace “Koreanization” (Park 122). On the other hand, Sung of the North Korea had a different opinion. For Sung, aside from maintaining an indestructible communist government in the North, Koreans must also learn how to strengthen their alertness for impending threats by the U.S. Imperialists and the Japanese militarists (Sung 189).
Contrary to Park’s movement, this appears to be Sung’s idea of the fight towards a better sense of nationalism—that aside from opening Korea to global trade, the country and its countrymen should also be more watchful and vigilant of the masked attacks that other nations might device (Sung 189). This seems to be the reason why most of Sung’s political rules lean towards the fight against threatening foreign interventions and penetrations to their system.
The Current Strength and Advantage of Korea’s Political Body and Its Effects to the Sustenance of its Identity despite Modernization
Despite all the aforementioned challenges and trials faced by North and South Korea, it can be observed that at present, the country is becoming increasingly successful. Based on the current stand and position of Korea in the world, it can be said that its struggles, as reflected in its history, are an ultimate success story (Asian Development Bank [ADB]).
Today, a lot of leaders admit that the struggle of Korea reflects a remarkable example for the all the nations in Asia to learn from (ADB). ADB president, Tadao Chino, expressed how impressed he is with country’s fast global recovery. He stated in a Korean Day seminar that, “After the Asian Financial Crisis struck in 1997, Korea recovered quickly thanks to strong structural reforms, especially in the financial and corporate sectors” (ADB).
This implies that the nation has successfully moved itself in the global spotlight and has succeeded as well in passing the global standards. Aside from this, Korean culture, fashion, and technology are also becoming known throughout the world. In the recent years, the world has been surprised to see the “Korean identity” entering the global market. This hence proves that Park and Sung’s efforts were never put to waste. The established structured political rules have indeed done a great deal of aid in molding the country’s identity and the so-called “Koreanization” despite the challenging tests of globalization and modernization.
Currently, many countries have become aware of who the Koreans are, what their culture and traditions are like, how they dress up, what kind of lifestyle they have, and a lot of other things which make up the individuality of Korea as a nation. Thus, in several ways, this success story of Korea implies that nationalism will never hinder and alter modernization.
Some countries may not have much chaos and helpless struggles written in their history like in Korea. Some countries may have achieved modernization that easily, without having to go though the crucial battles that Korea faced and fought. However, despite the fact that Korea’s history is painted with conflict and struggles, it can nonetheless be regarded as an ultimate success story. Although Korea was split as a nation into two different leaderships over the years, its effort for modernization and globalization remained communal and strong.
Both governments moved towards opening the country’s horizon to much wider scopes, embracing and accepting foreign ideologies and opening their economy to foreign traders. Some nations might have thought that this would become another challenge to the country’s efforts to pursue nationalism, but Korea apparently proved otherwise. Its success in the international arena amidst strong competition only shows that a country might need to be united as a nation first before it can move towards larger aims like national modernization.
Structured political rules as well as the strengthened democratization in South Korea—which started in 1987 and is still prevailing today—serve as the motivating force of the nation which ended its long painful struggle and led the conclusion of its communal desire and surrender for nationalism (“Chapter Twenty-Six. South Korean Democratization” 1). This and all of the abovementioned evidences of Korea’s success story only attest that nationalism and having one distinct national identity will never get in the way of modernization; rather, it may help the country on its way to success.
Asian Development Bank. “Republic of Korea Offers Success Story for Rest of Asia, ADB president Tells Korea Day Seminar.” Asian Development Bank. 14 May 2004. 5 May 2009. <http://www.adb.org/Media/Articles/2004/4987_korea_success_story_at_day