Han-Dnipro Confluence: South Korean Officials Seek To Inspire Ukraine’s Postwar Recovery

By | September 27, 2022 | No Comments

South Korea’s actions at the official level toward the situation in Ukraine may not be to everybody’s satisfaction, yet in ways small yet meaningful, South Korean officials have contributed to the conversation over how Ukraine can rebuild once the fighting subsides. Here is one story, largely unreported in Korean, let alone in English, of how officials from Seoul have sought to at least provide some inspiration to their counterparts in Kyiv.


[Reporter’s View] “Miracle on the Dnipro”[1]

Representatives of the South Korean government attended the “Ukraine Recovery Conference”, which was held in Switzerland in early July, and while it was widely covered, there is one story that has gone largely unreported. At that time, when officials representing the ROK government, including Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Dohoon and Director of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Oh Seong-ik met with Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleskandr Kubrakov, they presented the Ukrainian delegation with a lofty gift. 

The gift the group of South Korean government representatives gave was a copy of “The Korea Story”, an 808-page book written in English. It was written by South Korea’s No. 1 “technocrat”, the late O Wŏn-ch’ŏl, the Blue House’s economic chief who planned and led the country’s industrialization during the 1960’s and 1970’s. He thoroughly detailed South Korea’s economic and industrial development in the book. The book details how policy decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, which makes one realize that a small, poverty-stricken country on the far reaches of the Asian continent went on to be an economic powerhouse not only because of good fortune or the help of other countries. President Park Chung-hee referred to Mr. O as a “national treasure”, yet, he fought a war of nerves with Park over what was best in terms of policy implementation. It was through these trials that the Korea we know today was made. 

Oh Seong-ik opened up about presenting the book several days after his trip to Switzerland during a session of the Asia Leadership Conference (ALC) in mid-July. Members of the Ukrainian legislature as well as provincial governors participated. Oh spoke to the conference attendees of his own grandfather’s sacrifice during the division of Korea some 70-odd years ago, stating that “the news from Ukraine strikes a familiar note with me”. As such, he said, “I hope South Korea’s experience can be of help for Ukraine’s postwar recovery, so I presented him with ‘The Korea Story’, which contains the story of the ‘Miracle on the Han.’” Not only Ukrainian officials but former Polish president Bronisław Komorowski, among several political, governmental and business figures from other countries gave a rousing applause.

Some time ago, changes were made to the guidelines surrounding Ukrainian high school world history textbooks so as to include coverage of South Korea’s economic development. Before that, “South Korea” was conspicuously absent from Ukrainian world history textbooks. The “Miracle on the Han” has become all the more noteworthy in light of the suffering Russia’s invasion has ravaged, which has brought home the importance of national defense and the urgent need to rebuild. 

Incidentally, the very person who conferred his blessing upon North Korea’s invasion of the South was Josef Stalin, and the person who is most directly responsible for the invasion of Ukraine is Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is a veritable “21st century Stalin”. Just as Stalin miscalculated that the Korean Peninsula would be fully Communist in a short period of time, in contrast to his plans when Putin launched the war, the war continues, and the Ukrainians have shown such a will to continue fighting that Putin seems embarrassed. I opened a map and saw that the Dnipro River divides the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. I hope that, just as with the Miracle on the Han a half a century earlier, a “Miracle on the Dnipro” will come to fruition. 


Original article by Roh Suk-jo. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna.


[1] Source: “[Reporter’s View] “Miracle on the Dnipro” [기자의 시각] ‘드니프로강의 기적’”, Chosun Ilbo, September 26, 2022, https://www.chosun.com/opinion/journalist_view/2022/09/26/N5KXAX5FMBCAPOMEML2WET2B7Q/


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