SEOUL — SOUTH KOREA’S DAEWOO LOGISITCS recently locked down half of Madagascar’s arable land for agriculture exports back home, according the Financial Times. But the real kicker, and what has the London paper using words like “neo-colonialism,” is that Daewoo isn’t expecting to pay a dollar for the land.
The Indian Ocean island will simply gain employment opportunities from Daewoo’s 99-year lease of 1.3m hectares, officials at the company said. They emphasised that the aim of the investment was to boost Seoul’s food security.
“We want to plant corn there to ensure our food security. Food can be a weapon in this world,” said Hong Jong-wan, a manager at Daewoo. “We can either export the harvests to other countries or ship them back to Korea in case of a food crisis.”
The local Maeil Business Newspaper (매일경제) bitterly refuted the Times’ report on Friday. The paper said Daewoo will invest 6 billion dollars over the next 20 years into the East African island nation. It added that while the South Korean government has not directly responded to the FT’s coverage, Seoul sees the report as a “malicious distortion.”
In an unashamedly biased front-page story Friday, the Maeil asked: “Could (the FT report) be a sign of greed over Europe’s lost hegemony in Africa, once considered its back yard?”
Also on Friday, the FT reported that Kuwait and Qatar, along with Asian nations including South Korea, are looking to scoop up land in Cambodia in return for sizable investments.
The trend is worrisome. Should food shortage fears like those that rippled through Asia earlier this year spike again, capital-rich nations will surely start to horde. Poorer agricultural nations will be left in the lurch, and unable to feed their people, they’ll resort to outside aid. This would give birth to a new power structure that could indeed be characterized as colonial.
If Daewoo’s Hong is right about food becoming a “weapon,” and he may be, then our world is set to open a new dystopian era. It’s hard not to wonder when reading quotes like these whether humanity has lost its vision; whether we have regressed from modern civilization into a new global feudalism.
(Edited on November 22, 2008)