Ha Chan Ho, former Republic of Korea (RoK) Ambassador to Vietnam and advisor to Samsung Group, is highly positive about the Southeast Asian country’s future economic ‘miracle’ made possible by aspiring, capable youths.
Ha served as RoK Ambassador to Vietnam from 2011 to 2013, and has been a strategic advisor to the Samsung Group for two years now.
During his ambassadorship and current advisory job, he has met numerous Vietnamese youths at the universities and localities he has visited.
“What are young Vietnamese’s weaknesses? How can we make the most of opportunities coming from the foreign investment flow?” These are some of the most common questions he has been asked.
“I’m quite impressed with the large number of students with short-sightedness at the Vietnamese universities I have paid a visit to. Spectacled students may account for up to 70 percent of the audiences,” the former ambassador said.
“Though outside appearances can be misleading, there is clear evidence that avid readers and frequent computer users are more likely to suffer weakened eyesight. I really hope the youngsters with glasses who I had met are all diligent students,” he added.
The seasoned diplomat revealed that hard work and continued effort are the keys to success.
“Today’s Vietnamese youths are armed with notably better integration skills than my Korean contemporaries were back then,” Ha stressed.
He was amazed by students at the Korean Club of the Foreign Trade University, who raised thorny questions in fluent English during an exchange.
“I replied to one of the commonest questions I received, which was whether I saw any Achilles heel in Vietnamese youths. They are in fact highly intelligent and willing to take on challenges and hone their professional skills,” Ha recalled.
However, he observed that his answer was not enthusiastically embraced, which came as yet another surprise to him.
“I can clearly spot the young Vietnamese generation’s potential and their capacity to grab opportunities that come their way, but they are seemingly not convinced by that,” Ha observed.
"Young Vietnamese people are keen to scout for opportunities, but they appear unprepared to seize them,” he commented.
‘Miracle on the Hong River’
Compared to RoK, a nation lacking in natural resources, Ha pointed out that Vietnam is endowed with multiple competitive edges, including its strategic geographical position at the very heart of Southeast Asia, plentiful natural resources and a ‘golden’ population.
During a dialogue with students of the Hanoi University of Science and Technology in May 2015, Han Myoung-sup, executive president of Samsung Electronics, surprisingly asked how many of the participants came from a farming background.
Nearly half of the 500 students present raised their hands.
To the students’ astonishment, Han revealed he also came from a farming family.
To achieve his hard-earned success at the Korean electronics group, he would work 16-18 hours each day as a young man some 30 years ago.
During that period, Koreans were only allowed to take Sundays off work in a bid to boost production.
Only until the economy improved were workers given two and later four Sundays off work.
Former Ambassador Ha grew up in an era witnessing the “Miracle on the Han River,” a term used to refer to RoK’s post-war export-fueled economic growth, including rapid industrialization, technological achievements, an education boom, a notable rise in living standards, rapid urbanization and modernization, and skyscraper mushrooming.
“With all my love for Vietnam, I’m full of hope that the country’s economy will take off and experience a so-called “Miracle on the Hong [Red] River,” Ha said.
The Hong River is one of the Southeast Asian country’s major waterways.
Former Republic of Korea Ambassador to Vietnam Ha Chan Ho
The veteran diplomat pointed to the country’s annual economic growth of six to eight percent over the past 30 years, with per capita income averaging around US$2,000.
“Global groups, including Samsung, where I have been working as an advisor, have turned to Vietnam to build production facilities. This indicates that the country has grown to be a magnet for foreign investment,” he stressed.
“If Vietnamese people fully harness their potential, they will achieve all socio-economic goals set by the government. A 'Miracle on the Hong River' will thus not be a far-fetched dream,” Ha asserted.
The former ambassador also drew attention to drawbacks which have hindered Vietnam’s economic boom.
One of the stumbling blocks is the country’s failure to attain its socio-economic targets.
In Korea, the government and localities make concerted efforts to achieve goals at any costs.
By contrast, despite proper planning, maximum efforts are generally not exerted in Vietnam, and failure to do so can compromise goals.
“As far as I know, over the past 20 years, the Vietnamese economy has still been taxiing and refusing to gather momentum for take-off,” Ha concluded.
“I’m really thankful to former RoK President Lee Myung-bak for appointing me as ambassador to Vietnam in 2011,” Ha shared.
The diplomat now spends two hours every day learning Vietnamese, as he wishes to profoundly relate to the Southeast Asian country through its language.“I’m delving into the language intensively so that I can say proudly that Vietnamese blood is running in my veins and I’m 90 percent Vietnamese,” he added.