[EDITORIALS]Keep Talking to Find Solutions

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[EDITORIALS]Keep Talking to Find Solutions

Economic specialists from the Millennium Democratic Party, the United Liberal Democrats and the opposition Grand National Party had a marathon discussion with economic ministers over the weekend. They then announced their conclusions on various pressing issues, including economic reform, use of public funds, business environment, lives of low-income households and the national debt. It is regrettable that the announcement served only to reiterate their previously stated positions on these issues, rather than making any significant strides. But the announcement was still meaningful because the three parties, whose endless fights were considered to have hampered economic development, had the chance to openly exchange views.

During the discussion, the three parties and government agreed to promote financial reform by passing a sound finance law, accelerating corporate restructuring and integrating three bankruptcy laws. The passing or amending of these laws is urgent for solving corporate debt problems and promoting smooth reorganization, but such action has been delayed due to political discord.

It is also notable that they agreed to reduce the amount of public funds used for restructuring. Thus far the more than 30 trillion won ($23 billion) in public funds used for restructuring has been spent without any restraints, such as the requirement of prior approval by the National Assembly. The use of public fund has long been questioned, and the fact that they touched on the subject gives hope for more detailed discussions later. Moreover, the three parties decided to continue talks on securing transparency on how the funds are used and improving the business environment by relaxing regulations.

But the three parties could not agree on the three most controversial issues. The opposition party kept saying, "The national debt amounts to 990 trillion won," but the ruling party insisted that the debt stands at only at 120 trillion won, with the amount of public debt being in the middle of the disagreement. The three parties cannot avoid blame as they have not had detailed discussions on problems related to conglomerates, like the Hyundai Group. Their opinions differed greatly on the depth and manner of the current government's involvement in business activities.

And we have no problem with the parties disagreeing. In fact, we welcome it. What is important is that our nation's major political parties made efforts to solve problems by exchanging opinions. Our economy is suffering from a serious slow down, declining exports and inflation. In this situation, all of the parties showed the public a different side, pondering economic matters together, rather than simply attacking each other. This could be a first step toward recovering the people's trust in politics.

These kinds of talks should not be a one time event, and all sides should come up with detailed plans on how to improve the economy. They also need to expand the areas of talks to include social and environmental issues as well as political reform.

What we are still concerned with is that both sides privately reached some sort of agreement in the past, but when the issues became political debates, they were back to the same old partisan backbiting. We hope the discussion during the weekend will become a beginning of making decisions through rational discussion, not partisan politics. To make these kinds of discussions happen in the assembly in the future, it is necessary to provide a framework for dialogue.
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