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Posted at: Feb 14, 2018, 12:45 AM; last updated: Feb 14, 2018, 12:45 AM (IST)

Winter Olympics & longevity

South Korea’s double miracle
Winter Olympics & longevity

South Korea has got it right twice where more resourceful countries have floundered. Quiet diplomacy by Seoul managed to not just calm down the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but persuaded him to cast aside his nuclear weapons and missiles for some sunny diplomacy. The South Korean President had set the template for conciliation during his election campaign last May when he expressed openness for dialogue with the North. The upshot is days after the world’s most powerful man Donald Trump engaged North Korea in extremely dire terms, Kim Jong-un’s sister “Ivanka of North Korea” was captivating the South Koreans. It is too early to prophesise a summit meeting between the two Koreas. But the world undoubtedly is looking safer after months of nuclear brinksmanship between Trump and Kim.

South Korea’s second miracle is in altering the body clock. With a current average lifespan of 84 years, it leads the world in longevity. It is much ahead of the richer US or the more populous India, both of which are currently tweaking their universal healthcare policies. The South Korean example would demonstrate to both the US and India the fallacy of their current policy options. Trump is trying to roll back Obamacare which was a stab at affordable patient care and which South Korea managed to accomplish without breaking the bank. Modi is aiming to please the masses by a universal healthcare model which favours the private sector rather than strengthen and ensure equal access to the public healthcare system.

Both South Korean turnarounds are susceptible to disruption, by pestilence or war. But South Korea’s patient construction of a fragile edifice of trust with North should be an example for India and the US. Both have spurned political solutions and opted for military posturing with Pakistan and Iran, respectively. Kim’s reasonableness could be a ruse. But in the absence of enduring solutions, it is best to try for an improvement. Immortality and permanent peace are as yet unattainable, but South Korea has shown that the right mix of empathy and rationality can bring us closer to both goals.


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