Closing the Digital Gap Is Key to Peace
Kim Dae Jung, president of the Republic of Korea,
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000.
the multinational campaign against terrorism initiated in 2001, the international
community needs to pool its power to establish lasting peace as it ushers
in a wholly new chapter in human history, the age of knowledge and information.
The first task is to close the widening gap between the rich and poor,
the root cause of major conflicts in today's world.
The century we just left behind had more than 250 wars of various sizes.
An incredible 110 million people lost their lives in these conflicts,
and about 60 percent of them, or 63 million people, were civilians.
Wars in the 20th century had two main causes: nationalism and ideology.
The confrontation caused by nationalism swept the world in the first half
of the 20th century. Humanity experienced it through two world wars. Even
today, world peace is threatened by the nationalistic confrontation in
some parts of the Middle East.
The confrontation caused by ideology, too, brought the East-West Cold
War for more than 40 years, beginning with the Korean War in 1950. The
long shadow of the Cold War still darkens the Korean peninsula. Aside
from nationalism and ideology, conflicts between races, religions and
cultures are occurring in various places around the world.
Wars continue in the 21st century while one of the greatest revolutions
in history is in progress. It is the revolution of information and globalization.
In the 20th century, tangible elements-including land, capital and labor-were
the sources of economic development. In the 21st century, however, intangible
elements such as knowledge and information, creativity and spirit of adventure
are becoming the core of competitive strength.
Two hundred years after the Industrial Revolution, the final curtain has
come down on the paradigm of the age of industrialization. Now, knowledge-based
economies are fast expanding. Even poor nations and poor individuals will
now be able to create wealth if they can make the best use of a computer.
The current information revolution can be termed as the fifth epochal
event since the birth of the human species. First was the emergence of
agrarian civilizations some 10,000 years ago; second, the birth of four
great civilizations along the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus and Yellow
rivers 5,000 to 6,000 years ago; third, the revolution of thought that
took place in China, India, Greece and Israel 2,500 years ago, and, fourth,
the Industrial Revolution that began at the end of the 18th century.
The Industrial Revolution laid the economic foundation for the emergence
of modern nations. At the same time, it prepared the way for nationalism.
Stronger people did not hesitate to proceed on the path toward "aggressive
nationalism," namely imperialism, while weaker people resorted to
a strategy of "defensive nationalism." Confrontation between
them resulted in the tragedy of two world wars in the 20th century.
The Industrial Revolution surely brought development and great affluence
to civilization. But behind it were the dark shadows of the miserable
sacrifices of weaker people and the wars of imperialism of stronger nations.
What then will be the light and shadow of the age of information and globalization
in the 21st century?
The information revolution, known as the "Third Wave," opens
the door to the new possibilities of knowledge-based economies. Knowledge
and information have emerged as the core elements creating wealth. Yet,
there is the problem of disparity in information capabilities.
Behind the bright facade of information and globalization is the dark
shadow of inequality in the advancement of information among nations,
called the "digital divide." Nations that have economic power
derived from information technologies are overwhelming the economies of
More than 75 percent of benefits from enhanced information capabilities
are concentrated in advanced nations. Developing nations are lagging behind.
The gap in information capabilities between the advanced and developing
nations means a widening gap between the rich and poor. And the faster
information capabilities are enhanced, the wider the gap between the rich
and poor becomes.
Behind the destructive fanaticism that is occurring in various places
in the world today as well as the anti-globalization movement is anger
over the gap between the rich and poor. Moreover, worldwide environmental
degradation will be accelerated if the digital gap triggers indiscriminate
development of developing nations as a means of survival.
On the other hand, the information revolution, as it inevitably accelerates
openness and globalization, causes cultural conflicts. National boundaries
are becoming practically meaningless as enormous amounts of information
are spreading around the world instantaneously. The worsening of poverty
and cultural conflicts leads to various kinds of fanaticism. Thus, enhanced
information capabilities and globalization could also threaten world peace
in the 21st century.
To resolve the basic problem of the digital divide, there has to be international
interest and cooperation. Advanced nations must use their leadership to
help developing countries with various kinds of support, including the
construction of an information infrastructure.
All humanity must share the benefits from enhanced information capabilities
and globalization. The interests and diversity of all nations and all
peoples must be respected. Poor nations and poor people will not be patient
forever, and the international society should hold serious and active
discussions on this issue.
Respect for human rights and democracy as universal values is another
ingredient for world peace in the 21st century and the primary condition
for the safety and happiness of humankind.
The Korean peninsula remains the last legacy of the Cold War of the 20th
century. Peace on the peninsula is not only the ardent wish of the 70
million Korean people but also directly linked to peace in East Asia and
the world. The "sunshine policy" of my administration aims at
preparing for eventual peaceful unification by establishing coexistence
and peaceful interaction between South and North Korea. All nations and
all peace-loving organizations, including the United Nations, support
I visited Pyongyang in June last year and held an historic inter-Korean
summit with Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea's National Defense Commission.
We agreed not to repeat the tragedy of war but to make joint efforts for
exchanges and cooperation. Since then, tensions have eased greatly and
a lot of positive changes have occurred on the Korean peninsula. Exchanges
and cooperation between the South and North have proceeded rapidly at
times and slowly at other times.
On September 15, only four days after the terrorist attacks on the United
States, inter-Korean ministerial talks were held in Seoul, and agreements
were reached, concerning reunions of separated families, the relinking
of a railway and several other projects. Although inter-Korean relations
are in a state of stagnation now, the people of Korea are convinced that
the path toward a genuine peace and eventual reunification will open again
if the two sides make utmost efforts with patience and consistency.
There is no alternative to the sunshine policy; it is a win-win policy
that contributes to peace and safety not only in South and North Korea
but also the entire world.
Living through the 20th century, the age of world wars, humankind has
not given up hope for peace. After World War I, the League of Nations
was formed; after World War II, the United Nations was created to ensure
an end to worldwide con?icts. Endeavors toward peace will continue in
the 21st century. Communication and cooperation should be the driving
force for progress.
To cope wisely with the new issues of the 21st century, including the
problem of eliminating the gap between the rich and poor, cooperative
relations should be forged between nations, cultures, religions and races
Communication leads to understanding and then to cooperation. Where there
is cooperation, we can expect a resolution of the problem of poverty.
When these things are realized, the threat of war will disappear.