[OUTLOOK]Park Chung Hee's Legacy Causes PainA wealthy nation is not necessarily the best nation. Few people want to emigrate to oil-producing Arab countries, because they offer few options when it comes to making decisions governing your life.
In general, people feel happy when they are provided with a variety of options to choose from. Having many choices in jobs, goods, services, friends, hobbies and so on is a route to happiness. The country people will choose to live in, in essence, is a country that provides its citizens with a variety of options.
How does a nation provide its people with many choices? The answer is very simple. Freedom. When a nation allows its people to produce what they want, set prices freely and select what they want － in other words when a nation lets a liberal market come into existence － a variety of choices automatically springs up.
Depriving people of freedom is divesting the people of the market system. When this happens, options disappear and the people become poor. That's communism. Communism got rid of the rich and markets to help the weak. People became equal － equal beggars.
There are several sectors in Korea where the principles of communism have forced people to live the life of a beggar. The first sector is education. The government introduced secondary school equalization policies in which students attend a middle school or a high school according to the lot they draw, instead of applying for the school they want to attend.
The government deprived students of the freedom to choose their school to protect students who lag behind in academic achievement. What happened? Students were equalized, but at the same time they became hungry for high-quality education. Just as people run away from communist countries to seek bread, students are fleeing overseas in droves to pursue educational freedom and educational choices.
The second sector is medical service. The government wrested freedom from doctors to protect poor people. With the introduction of the state-run medical insurance system, the government robbed doctors of freedom to set prices for medical treatment.
In education, the government created a level field for education consumers, and in the case of medical services, it equalized medical service providers, not the consumers.
As a result, people became equal, but at the same time they became panhandlers for medical services. As the quality of medical services has decreased, some patients have had to beg for better medical treatment. More patients are going abroad to obtain the right to choose better medical care.
Politics is no different. The party platform prevented assemblymen from expressing their opinions. They then turned into rubber stamps for the party leadership. Unlike other presidential governments, the assemblymen were deprived of the freedom to speak out. Then what happened? Politics changed into a fight among groups and the people became mendicants longing for productive government.
Depriving the strong of freedom to protect the weak seems to help the weak. But it doesn't.
As we have seen with communism, encroaching on freedom is a shortcut to rendering all the people poor. Usurping freedom necessarily reduces the size of the pie. It's downward equalization. Depriving the assemblymen of the political freedom to express their own opinion is another form of downward equalization, although the motivation is different from educational equalization.
The government should let markets form by protecting freedom. Markets are sure to increase the size of the pie. It's a surer way to protect the weak, as we can feed the weak with the extra portion of the pie.
I am thinking of the person who laid the cornerstones of current social systems, because we are seriously suffering in education, medical service and politics. This person is, in fact, the former president, Park Chung Hee. He introduced the basics of the state-run medical insurance system, secondary school equalization and party platform systems.
I assume that Mr. Park might have employed these systems to help the weak or promote efficiency. But we should confront his blunders.
If Mr. Park knew that these equalization measures would bring tremendous pain and sufferings to the people, he might have been the first to take action to correct the systems.
President Park can be called a great president on only the grounds that he saved Koreans from 5,000 years of economic poverty.
He deserves to be respected and adored no matter what others say.
If Koreans retake "freedom" and "choice of options" and become happy again, they can return President Park to glory.
The writer is vice president of Sejong University.
by Junn Sung-chull