LEE, Sang-Ki Asian CEO & Publisher and AJA Founder President
I visited Da Nang, Vietnam as Chairman of the Journalist Association of Korea in early October 2005. I led a Korean delegation of ten experienced journalists with leadership skills to attend an annual exchange program with the Vietnam Journalists Association. Da Nang, the site of this year’s APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, was our third destination following visits to Hanoi and the magnificent Halong Bay. We were surprised when we arrived in Da Nang by the two-way, eight-lane road. What was more, little traffic was to be seen on it. I was curious about why the Vietnamese would build such a wide road when vehicles were so sparse. A Da Nang city government official explained, “Even though there are few cars now, some day many cars will use this road, bumper-to-bumper.”
Yes, the Vietnamese were implementing policies looking toward the next 10, 20 and 100 years. Having heard his explanation, I told my delegation members that the future of Vietnam would be astonishingly bright. The Korean journalists travelling with me all agreed. Following our Da Nang visit, we moved to Hoi An, from which we boarded a domestic flight to Ho Chi Minh City, our final destination.
It was well after 11 p.m., and a lady in her late 50s was waiting with three to four other Vietnamese journalists, flowers in hand, at the airport in the pouring rain to meet us. The lady was Nguyen Thi Hang Nga, the Chairwoman of the Ho Chi Minh City Journalists Association. She was also an incumbent Vietnamese lawmaker and a member of the executive committee of the Vietnam Journalists Association. In the General Assembly of the Asia Journalist Association held in Seoul about a month later, Chairwoman Nguyen said in her congratulatory remarks, "We Vietnamese journalists are writing out of desperation, as if we dipped our pen into blood instead of the ink. It is none other than Vietnamese journalists who are living with the conviction that each drop of blood shed paves the way for freedom, prosperity and peace."
Vietnam has a long history of suffering from countless wars. Most recently, the country was forced to endure a tragic 30-year conflict after the Second World War. Thus, it was only natural for its people to desperately yearn for freedom and peace. After overcoming the ravages of war through sacrifice, perseverance and hard work, the Vietnamese people are now finally enjoying peace and prosperity.
Da Nang, once a blood-soaked battlefield, has turned into a venue where heads of state and other top government officials meet and pool their wisdom to discuss peace and prosperity in Asia.
I believe the astonishing transformation of not only Da Nang, where the APEC Summit is being held, but also of Vietnam as a whole, was already envisioned long before I first visited the country in 2002. At that time, Vietnamese journalists often said, “In Vietnam, we have two windows—one on the past and the other on the future. Nevertheless, we now manage to keep the window that looks back on the past closed. We are busy moving forward and have no time for retrospection. We believe that once our country is developed and our people are all happy, we shall have time to think about what happened previously.”
Both Korea and Vietnam share the tragic experience of internecine war. During the Vietnam War, Koreans and Vietnamese even fought each other as enemies. However, the two countries have overcome the painful scars of war and have become close friends that pursue common interests in Asia, taking a front seat in establishing a new order.
I believe that on November 11, President Moon and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang will come up with concrete plans for realizing our dreams and ambitions because we have endured similar hardships and are both passionate about moving forward.
I earnestly believe the citizens of Da Nang, one of the most ferocious battlefields of the Vietnam War, as well as all Vietnamese, will be solid and lasting friends of all people who long for freedom, peace and prosperity.