Lee Myung-bak's Foreign Policy & National SecurityUpdated: 2010-02-23 (KST)
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak marked his second anniversary in office with a scorecard far more impressive than expected in the field of diplomacy.
The CEO-turned president achieved tangible results in raising Korea's status in the international arena by traveling to a total of 14 countries and holding 38 summits last year alone backed by cooperation forums and economic deals.
The Lee administration has made significant progress in diversifying and expanding its diplomatic horizon to neighboring Asian countries, Latin America and Africa from its previous key nations - the United States, Japan, China and Russia.
South Korea introduced a so-called, "New Asia Initiative" last March during a visit to Indonesia aimed at embracing under-developed Asian neighbors through economic cooperation and signing free trade agreements with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
President Lee also opened channels with Latin America and Africa which are both emerging as new economic powerhouses by boosting aid, people-to-people exchange, trade and commerce while seeking opportunities for Korean builders, manufacturers and business firms.
[Interview : Choi Gang,Professor
Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security] "Lee Myung-bak administration has been emphasizing his role in global community as the middle power, perhaps more interested in helping some developing countries in regions like Africa as well as Latin America. It think this year we will see some positive progress made in those two regions."
Korea also restored ties with the United States by resolving thorny issues such as the relocation of US bases stationed in Korea and reaffirming their commitment to dealing with key challenges such as the stalled KORUS FTA and North Korea.
As for Lee's North Korean policy pundits say there was little progress but his government has laid the groundwork for developing relations in a positive direction.
President Lee proposed the "grand bargain" an incentive package aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions and showed a rather flexible stance towards the North by expressing his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il raising hopes for a third inter-Korean summit sometime this year.
However, experts say there is much to be done on Lee's part in further mending inter-Korean ties and realizing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
[Interview : Yang Mu-jin, Professor
University of N.Korean Studies] "Both Koreas have proclaimed their willingness to improve inter-Korean ties and work towards change. They seem especially determined to hold meetings and summits between high-ranking officials and realize the efficiency of such engagments. In that sense, President Lee should take initiative and be more active in closely engaging with North Korea."
[Reporter : Yoo Ji-hae
firstname.lastname@example.org] "Many Koreans are hoping that such achievements of the last two years will contribute to a better environment in terms of national security, advancement of national brand and continued prosperity in the Korean economy in the years to come.
Yoo Ji-hae, Arirang News."
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