South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and other middle powers in Asia should take a more active role in global governance as a balancer to the United States and China in today’s decentralized world, said Chang Dae-whan, chairman of South Korea’s leading media organization Maekyung Media Group.
“We should turn to the collective intelligence of the middle powers to transcend the pandemonium of the 21st century,” Chang said, explaining this year’s theme “Collective Intelligence: Overcoming Global Pandemonium” during his opening address at the 19th World Knowledge Forum (WKF), the largest business forum in Asia hosted by Maekyung Media Group. The annual three-day forum kicked off on Wednesday at Jangchung Arena and Hotel Shilla in central Seoul.
Pandemonium, meaning “great chaos,” is a word coined by the English poet John Milton in his epic poem “Paradise Lost” as the name for the capital of Hell. "The 17th century was dominated by confusion as it was a transition period, moving from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance,” said Chang. Today’s world is in a similar state of disarray, he said, from the lack of a solid global leadership, the rise of nationalism, and financial crises and natural disasters that have wrecked havoc across the world.
Chang noted the growing tide of protectionism propelled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s America First policy and his shaking up of the liberal world order. At the same time, China’s influence on the global stage continues to grow, with its diplomatic, military and economic power rivaling or even overshadowing that of the U.S.
While tensions with North Korea have eased with the recent détente, the security of Northeast Asia still rests on Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization, Chang said, adding that the Korean Peninsula is drawing worldwide attention as a “test bed for peace.”
Meanwhile the threat of an emerging market crisis is higher than ever. Chang said emerging economies could see a repeat of the 2013 “taper tantrum,” when rising U.S. interest rates prompted investors to yank their investments out of emerging nations, causing Asian currencies to crash. The plummet of the Turkish lira and Argentine peso have especially sparked fears of the financial crisis spreading to other emerging markets, he noted.
According to Chang, one of the biggest technological innovations reinforcing the forces of decentralization has been blockchain. As a technology based on trust as “all of its decisions and transactions are open,” blockchain has the potential to “shake up the established order in global governance,” Chang said. He cited the case of the Estonian government and its development of a digital ID based on blockchain technology called “e-residency,” which allows holders to set up a corporation anywhere in the European Union.
Some of the notable guest speakers to present at the WKF include Janet Yellen, chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2014-2018), H. R. McMaster, the 26th White House National Security Council Advisor of the Trump administration, and Kersti Kaljulaid, president of Estonia, one of the leading countries in blockchain technology.
By Lee Duk-joo and Kim Hyo-jin
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