Weathering the Storm Together

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Weathering the Storm Together

Another round of corporate restructuring around the corner. The economy is sending out ominous signs, and it doesn''t take an economist to detect them. The specter of restructuring looms again.

Restructuring has to be stopped. It tramples mercilessly on a person''s self-esteem and pride, and being driven out of a job brings on a sense of worthlessness.

We know how that feels. We all hurt. Why else did a personnel manager given the unsavory task of firing his colleagues and subordinates commit suicide during the previous round of restructuring? The ones who barely managed to hang onto their jobs are not immune to feelings of guilt - as they watch their fellow workers join the unemployment rolls.

Restructuring is a destroyer of lives and it must be prevented from ruining the lives of people. But this seems unlikely. The government''s contention that the nation could go bankrupt if restructuring is not allowed to proceed is not merely a threat but a necessary precaution.

Even the United States, which has been experiencing a period of unprecedented prosperity, pursued a revolutionary and painful restructuring in the early 1980s, when Korea was preparing for Seoul Olympics and feeling on top of the world. The unemployment rate reached a whopping 12 percent, but Americans did not lose their cool. They overcame the hardship wisely, and are now reaping the benefits after a period of austerity and policy adjustment.

Now it is our own turn to bite the bullet, to hunker down and do what we need to do in order to turn our economy around. The last round of restructuring was not enough, and we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. Let''s brace ourselves and tighten our belts once more, but not too much to numb the market. Let''s also give some thought to our more unfortunate neighbors as we navigate through the crisis ahead.

We should not bring our lunch from home to work, as is our wont during times of difficulty. A past prescription for overcoming a crisis was to ban civil servants from eating out. At one time in the past, even the prime minister brought his lunch from home and was widely respected for his frugality.

True, Koreans had once been so poor that they did not know where their next meal was coming from. The lunchbox in Korea has a history. It represents the excruciating poverty, tears, sorrow, and joys of the Korean people as they rebuilt the economy from ruins.

Perhaps this is why we tend to carry lunch to work whenever the economy takes a turn for the worse. But we are no longer so poor. What''s more, the restaurants near workplaces would close down if all their customers bring their lunches. People are waiting on the tables for a meager paycheck, some of them probably with husbands out of jobs.

How much can we save by bringing lunch from home anyway? It probably costs less to eat out. Let''s not pack our lunches to work this time. Let''s think of the less fortunate around us. The meager amount you pay for your lunch might help to keep the market running. The economy and consumption should not seize-up before restructuring moves into high gear. Those who have need to spend their money so that it can circulate.

We have to be frugal, but not indiscriminately. For instance, we can save by drinking not so much on the way home from work. It would also benefit our health. We have to enjoy small comforts and simple pleasures now and then in order for us to go on.

Let''s also remember to give a call to an unemployed friend who has been at home all day. Invite him out so that he knows he is not forgotten. It is not his fault that he lost his job, and he should not feel less of a man. We all share the pain. All of us share a responsibility for the suffering. Our jobless friends are simply carrying our burden for the moment.

And remember, many hands are depending on their jobs at the humble drinking establishments. So let''s drop by occasionally and drown our troubles in hearty laughter.

Difficult times are ahead of us. Violent and massive demonstrations are following one after the other. There is this sense of eerie calm before a storm, however, which will soon come raging down on us. Nobody knows when it will strike, or who its first victims will be. Whoever they might be, we are riding on the same boat, sharing the same destiny. We are living in desperate times. We have to think of the community and our less fortunate neighbors first.

Let''s ride out the storm wisely and calmly. Getting agitated won''t help.

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