[VIEWPOINT]No Answers for Now, Just More ProblemsWe live in a pluralistic society, but the degree of disintegration in public opinion and among politicians has reached an unbearable level. Exports have decreased to an unprecedented level, and corporate investment is extremely depressed. The economies of the United States and Japan, the two world leaders, are predicted to continue their slide until the end of the year.
Regardless of the dire situation, the government is boasting that foreign reserves have reached a record $97 billion and is looking forward to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's return visit to South Korea, as if the ills in the South Korean economy will be resolved once North Korea opens its doors. I am not even sure whether the government is having a positive attitude or just has a lot of nerve.
In society, the government resolves problems created by the general public. However, what the government pursues these days, such as restructuring, education reform, supporting start-up companies, medical and media reform, and the recent initiative for a five-day workweek are all problems handed to the general public, not answers.
Massive spending of public funds, changes in college enrollment procedures without consulting professors, trillions of won to support start-up companies disappearing like the burst of a bubble, soaring medical costs and insurance fees, and the government's murky attitude toward media reform are left to the general public to resolve.
Finding solutions for the export downturn and shrinking investments is really hard. The policies of the current administration are floundering in a populism dotted with fallacies. Korea may not face another economic crisis anytime soon since it has the world's fifth largest cache of foreign reserves. But the warning signs will remain if the government sticks to the dogmatism and arrogance of relying on a few policies it prepared when it first took office.
The solutions the government turned to in the beginning were increasing foreign reserves, punishing the chaebols and pampering North Korea. The foreign reserves policies can be seen as successful. But it was something to complement the shortcomings of the previous administration and nothing that can indicate the strength of the current administration.
The government's chaebol policy contributed to bringing down global corporations in Korea. The sunshine policy warms your heart, as demonstrated by the fact that President Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but economically, it lacks logic.
Foreign currency, corporations, and North Korea are all economic actors and important figures in sociopolitics. If the government does not change its approach toward each of these factors, the economic crisis of Korea will not be addressed. The government should not consider these three factors as objects to be increased, punished or pampered, respectively, but they should be considered an agent of spending, reliable players and a future friend.
The media should be the first to present examples. Why can't it ditch articles that cover irresponsible words that young politicians spit out while drinking or the far-fetched theories of aged politicians, and fill the space with productive articles, such as foreign entrepreneurs' opinions on the five-day work week, the success and failure of restructuring or an analytical report on the cash value and estimated economic effect of the 2 million kilowatts in electric power North Korea demands from the South?
For their part, can't politicians use their love for the country and wisdom to untangle complicated political problems to improve the economy? The real solution to the current economic difficulty is not irrational political debate. Instead, when the market mechanism, under which people can be compensated fairly and entrepreneurs are economic actors, is truly established, the current economic downturn will disappear.
The writer is a professor of business administration at Inha University.
by Park Ki-chan