[EDITORIALS]Fair-Trade Body: Time for a Change

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[EDITORIALS]Fair-Trade Body: Time for a Change

While the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States are aggravating Korea's economic hardship, efforts are being made to find a way out of the difficulties and a new paradigm for the Korean economy. Debates over reform of the regulations for fair trade and the role of the Fair Trade Commission have significantly expanded. The government and the business and academic sectors are discussing relaxation of individual policies, such as the restriction on investment by the 30 largest conglomerates in other firms.

The fair trade system in the past has obtained good results in correcting unfair trade practices and making competition the foundation of the market, but it has failed to follow the trend of the times and it now needs a thorough reform. In particular, the system has failed to reflect changes in business environment since the 1997-98 foreign exchange crisis. Experts expressed such views in the JoongAng Ilbo's recent series on the Fair Trade Commission and at a seminar Friday jointly hosted by Yonsei University's Institute of East and West Studies and the Korea Academic Society of Industrial Organization.

Experts are divided over details of reform methodology. But they commonly insist that the fair trade system and the Fair Trade Commission should concentrate on their inborn role of promoting competition. In other words, the commission should return to its role as "the market watchdog," raising market efficiency through encouraging competition and preventing unfair monopoly, oligopoly and trust-building. Some experts proposed that other agencies take charge of jaebol policies and protection of the weak, holding these tasks unsuited to the commission's basic aims and the need for efficiency. Some blame the Fair Trade Commission for pursuing a political role in regulating the jaebol and the media according to government policy, rather than sticking to its quasi-judicial role of inspecting anti-competitive practices.

We advise the government to listen to criticism of the fair trade system and the Fair Trade Commission and to implement reforms. Just as we change our clothes as the seasons change, the Fair Trade Act also should change in response to change in the business and market environment.

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