Viewing the case of South Korea, how will VN rethink its miserable position?


                                                            Prof. Hach Cao Nguyen

More than three dacades ago, the writer (former Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Saigon) had a chance to visit South Korea. At the time, South Korea’s major development plan just began to be implemented. The then Korean economy lacked everything: Materials and energies, all had to be imported. And more: they had problems with mobilizing capital for investing in equipment and plants.

Initial impediments were massive, but only after some three decades of great efforts, South Korea’s development has been so successful. Annually, the U.N. publishs lots of statistical documents, of which, economic statistics are important. U.N. members are placed in a list according to their per capita income. This is an average figure to imply that income distribution is in equality. In reality, no country has such a kind of equality in income distribution.

Top of the list are many Western countries. Bottom are the tropical African states. Vietnam is close to the bottom, which is among the poorest nations in the world.

Many overseas Vietnamese made trips to Vietnam and insisted that in the big cities, luxurious cars lined up on streets. Why could we say that Vietnam is poor? That remark is interesting; but we need to remember that we are talking about average income: As Vietnam’s per capita income is very low, inequality distribution makes it more disastrous for the poorest components who contain the majority of the population.

Let’s return to South Korea: In the per capita income list of countries, South Korea today surpassed many European countries. That is a point we need to pay attention to.

The case of South Korea proves that a nation needs only three or four decades of development to reach to a state called self-sustained growth and prosperity. That span of time is insignificant toward the long history of a nation.

Statistics used to refer a period of 30 years to each generation.

Should a Vietnamese generation know how to make great efforts and sacrifices, to successfully adopt an optimal development strategy in the course of fierce competition globally; to restraint self-interests among the leaders and cadres; to satisfy the people’s aspirations; and especially to place the nation interests above the rulers’ interests… If such shoulds had been materialized, then the people of Vietnam surely wouldn’t be disgraceful as we are today, when we compared ourselves with the people of South Korea.

During the time between 1953 and 2002, North Korea and South Korea never went to war. Both the two are still competing with each other, but not in arms race for war. North Korea apllied Marxist Leninist doctrine with a view that it is a key to bring the nation to glory. South Korea denied Marxist Leninism, but didn’t find ways to rig the North off. On the contrary, South Korea followed the model of democratic and free market development. The first thing is the people’s demands for food and clothing have to be met before a period of productivity and progress could start.

Where is capital for investment?

We have two major international sources: The World Bank and IMF. If more capital is needed, one may rely on the Asian Development Bank.The initial condition for getting a loan from those institutions is the government has to put forward a solid plan to prove the needs and the capability of the government to implement the project in a reliable and effective manner. The conditions are not quite difficult but for a corruptive and ineffective government, they become a barrier to be qualified. For those governments which always lie to the people as well as to foreigners, for the situation that international loans were not allocated adequately to the project(s), instead, fell into the pockets of the corrupt leaders. Don’t think that the international finance institutions are composed of all naive officials who believe in the corrupt leaders easily; as these leaders might have thought that they were successfully cheating their own people — the Vietnamese. If the leaders of Vietnam were all in that category, don’t discuss such things as nation development.

Returning to the case of South Korea: The South Koreans today may be up to 10 times more prosperous than their last generation’s living standard.

Why have they rapidly developed?

The first condition is the leaders must not consider their people in the other side as enemies and run into war for killing one another. The hatred and killing one another destroy all development plans and direct cadres’ attention to killing compatriots.

The second condition is the leaders need to have good visions, which means they have to place the nation’s development path in line with the advancing path of humankind, to avoid certain individuals’ schemes and ambitions to obstruct the progressive wheel of history.

The third condition is the goodwill and devotion of the authorities in their positions, in addition to their capability, to ensure the foreign investors’ confidence to funnel their funds to invest in various important projects. That is the necessary condition to move the economy into what is called “taking-off into self-sustained growth”.

The South Korean economy has been very prosperous for years. In the meantime, North Korea has continually fallen into starvation. The President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) put forward a move to reunify the North and the South to share the prosperity of the South with their compatriots in the North. They are advancing in that direction.

How will Vietnam think of its case?