South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said Tuesday that he plans to propose an initiative to tackle the "social injustice" separating the rich and poor when he hosts an Asia-Pacific summit next week that will bring together 21 heads of government, including President Bush.
Roh's emphasis on such global inequities would mark the second time this month that Bush would hear an airing of international complaints about the dark side of globalization. During a meeting in South America last week, Bush faced broad opposition to his desire for a free trade area across the Western Hemisphere.
In particular, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez berated the United States and other rich nations for unfairly benefiting from globalization. Chavez said developing nations have sunk deeper into poverty while trying to adopt broader free market principles.
South Korea, generally been a proponent of free trade, has become a powerhouse through its manufacturing and exports of electronics, automobiles and heavy machinery. But Roh has emerged as a leading supporter of those left behind by globalization -- particularly in his own country.
Roh met with a group of foreign reporters on Tuesday to discuss the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the southern city of Pusan, where leaders will meet Nov. 18-19. He cautioned against the tendency to promote business at the expense of social conditions.
"The more you emphasize the business-friendly environment, the more the social gap tends to widen and the poor tend to be excluded from the market," Roh said. He did not elaborate on the contents of his proposal, and his aides said Tuesday that specifics were still being drafted.
Roh also said he would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during the summit. South Korea has criticized Koizumi because of his visits to a shrine in Tokyo that honors military dead, including World War II criminals. South Korea and China have had tense relations recently with Japan, which has also revised textbooks that both Seoul and Tokyo claim whitewash Japanese crimes during World War II.
Roh, meanwhile, issued subtle warnings Tuesday to both Japan and China, which are disputing oil drilling rights in the East China Sea. He suggested they should find a way to coexist for the sake of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. He noted that the Korean Peninsula has historically been the battleground when China and Japan collide and said his administration was striving to promote "reconciliation" in the region while struggling to "ward off the rise of hegemony."