At the 15th Korea Foundation Forum, on August 11, the guest speaker was John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia. In conjunction with his visit to Korea to attend the fifth Jeju Peace Forum (August 11-13), the former leader of Australia emphasized the value of globalization and continued market opening, along with efforts to strengthen cooperation between Korea and Australia, as “middle powers” of the global order.
The forum event attracted the attendance of some 110 leading figures in Korea, from the political, governmental, academic, and Australia-related sectors, including Australian Ambassador to Korea Sam Gerovich, Grand National Party Spokesperson Cho Yoon-sun, and Chairperson John Walker of Macquarie Group of Companies, Korea, reflecting a widespread interest in hearing the former Prime Minister’s thoughts on current affairs.
John Howard is the second-longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Australia, who served for 12 years, from 1996 to 2007. He was elected the 25th Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, and won three consecutive elections thereafter. Upon graduating from the University of Sydney, where he studied law, he practiced as a solicitor. He started the political career in 1974 when he was elected a Liberal Member of Parliament. He served as Federal Treasurer from 1977 to 1983, and Leader of the Liberal Party from 1985 to 1989, and again in 1995. John Howard’s growth-oriented reform policy has helped to boost Australia’s per capita income from $20,000 to $40,000, during his term of office. He is thus highly praised for his instrumental role in developing Australia into an economic power.Supporters of Democracy
For the KF Forum, John Howard’s presentation was entitled “Australian-Korean Relations: A Bright Future.” First, he spoke highly of Korea’s successful achievement of two challenging tasks – economic development and democratization – at the same time, along with stressing the need for closer cooperation between Korea and Australia, since both countries share the common values of democracy and being a “middle power,” in terms of national strength, in dealing with the various issues of Asia and the Pacific region as well as of the global community. He also emphasized the influence of free market economy-based globalization on the countries around the world, including Korea and Australia, and the importance of continued market opening amidst the global economic recession. While mentioning the friendly relations between the two countries that began when Australia participated in the Korean War, former Prime Minister Howard recalled that he first came into contact with Korea, although indirectly, at that time. Especially, he commended Korea for its success in promoting industrialization and democratization at the same time. He talked about his personal relations with Korean presidents, including former President Kim Dae-jung, and praised their sacrifices for the attainment of Korea’s democratization.Continuation of Globalization
In terms of responding to the recent economic downturn, triggered by a global financial crisis, former Prime Minister Howard said that the benefits from globalization and free trade, which developing countries like Korea have realized, should not be forgotten. He again stressed the importance of continued efforts to further open markets in order to overcome the current situation.
Thi s per spect i ve al so ref lect s on the FTA negotiations between Korea and Australia, which began in May. Former Prime Minister Howard called for the early conclusion of a Korea-Australia FTA, which would enable the two countries to increase the volume of two-way trade, based on the complementary nature of their economic structures, and would also provide Korea with an opportunity to expand its FTA network into the South Pacific.Six-Party Talks
During a Q&A session, John Howard stepped down from the speaker’s podium and stood on the floor to listen carefully to each question and respond in a more direct and personal manner. In response to a question about the North Korean nuclear situation, he stressed the importance of maintaining the existing six-party talks and encouraging the active participation of China, the country with the most influence on the North Korea leadership, in an effort to denuclearize the North. As for the current South Korean administration’s policy toward the North, he praised its practical approach, but also advised against any fundamental change without due justification.
In regard to a recent phenomenon of Korean and Chinese domination of products and resources of the Australian market, he expressed his personal opinion for Australia to maintain a hands-off approach, in principle, based on a stance that being open to foreign investment would best serve the country’s national interest. As for a question about desirable ways to resolve labor-management disputes, a key problem area of Korea, he said that labor, business, and government should define common goals and have as much talks as possible for advancing the common interests of the country.