Tuesday, March 27, 2012

President Obama's speech at HUFS

President Obama made good use of his time on this week's visit to South Korea for the summit on nuclear security.  He made the obligatory visit by a U.S. president to the Korean DMZ, but also became the first United States president to speak to university students, in speech given at the Hanguk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul.  As reported in The Washington Post, he got a rousing response from students at HUFS when he told them “In our digital age, we can connect and innovate across borders like never before — with your smart phones and Twitter and Me2Day and Kakao Talk.”   The article also noted that leading up to the president’s appearance at the university, the White House had engaged the Hankuk student body in an online “Ask President Obama” contest in which questions were submitted through social media channels. The top 10 questioners received autographed copies of his book “The Audacity of Hope,” and the top three got hand-written responses from the president.
Obama's comments in the HUFS speech were all accurate, and underscored the contrast with his activities the day before, when he visited the DMZ.  When asked at a news conference about his impressions of the DMZ visit, Obama replied that “It’s like you’re in a time-warp. It’s like you’re looking across 50 years into a country that has missed 40 to 50 years of progress.”
President Obama's emphasis, both explicit and implicit, on the disparity in ICT development between the two Korea's is timely and deserves even more attention from the press and policymakers.   Chapter 8 of my e-book, Telecommunications and Transformation in Korea:  A Personal Perspective, makes my own opinion quite clear.  The chapter is entitled "From DMZ to Digital Divide:  toward national reunification" and amounts to an elaboration on President Obama's point.   The e-book is available on a free promotion through March 29.

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