President Kim Dae-jung Expresses Frustrations About the

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President Kim Dae-jung Expresses Frustrations About the

During a tour of North Chungchong Province a few days ago,
President Kim Dae-jung stated that our economic difficulties
are partially attributable to lack of experience in coping
with such situations. He also expressed discontent by
saying, "In the Daewoo case, Ford trifled with us, but we do
not have any documentation to use in protesting against their
treatment of us." We can interpret his statement as a lament
about the government's lack of ability to cope in an economic
crisis and the absence of negotiation acumen in trying to sell
Daewoo Motor.

Koreans themselves are largely to blame for this latest
economic downturn. Although external variables played a big
role, such as soaring oil prices and falling semiconductor prices,
basically the current situation stems from incomplete
domestic reform and restructuring. In addition, Koreans are
to blame for having failed to come up with measures in
preparation for predicted high oil prices. The government
and politicians loosened their belts, saying that the IMF
supervision was over. Taking this at face value, companies
and the general public were eager to hold onto their shares
of the pie and splurged.

In particular, the government really has no right to
say much about the Daewoo Motor situation. It hastily
selected Ford as the sole negotiation partner without
preparing any safety net, and uncredibly, the then head
of the Financial Supervisory Commission disclosed the bidding
price. Things have not improved at all even since Ford
pulled out. The various officials involved, from the ruling
Millennium Democratic Party, to government ministries, to
the Korea Development Bank were all afluster and
unwisely voiced their opinions, further complicating the
situation. Gaffes rolled out about such things as the idea
of selling Daewoo in parts or letting some company acquire
Daewoo first and take care of other matters later. In this
process, Korea's strategies have been exposed, plunging
the Daewoo case into a state of only awaiting GM's
goodwill. With the repetition of such mistakes,
the Korean economy is hard hit once again.

To climb out of the economic crisis, self-scrutiny and
intensive efforts to rectify the situation must come first.
If internal problems -- such as still being oblivious after
"having been trifled with" -- are not sorted out, the
economic crisis cannot be overcome. We hope that President
Kim's reflective words will provide an opportunity to put
the economy and other issues of prime concern to the
general public on top of the list of everyone's priorities.

by Kwon Young-bin

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