[OUTLOOK]We’ve a vision, but no road map“Cho-Joong-Dong” is getting under our skin, the Roh administration complains. “Cho-Joong-Dong” is a term used to refer to the JoongAng Ilbo, the Chosun Ilbo and the Dong-a Ilbo, the three major newspapers in Korea. Altho-ugh the government has lodged complaints against our paper, as the chief editorial writer, I feel perflexed nowadays when I have to decide on topics for the day’s editorials. No matter how critical a newspaper is of the government, a paper can hardly be cutting the president up every day -- or every other day. After all, this man is our president. Such repeated criticism will end up affecting things beyond the scope of the president, and will compromise people’s loyalty to the nation and its institutions. That will be asking for the ruination of our country. At every editorial meeting, we rack our brains trying to think of nice things to say about the government, but, well, it’s been a trying task the last 100 days. There have been incessant catfights almost every day and hardly a day has passed without slips-of-the-tongue made by government officials.
These are the times when we really miss what is known as a “vision.” We would like to have a dream. Will this directionless meandering of our country ever end? Thankfully, I was given a vision recently. It was not a vision provided by the government but by a businessman. I hesitated writing this column because while the JoongAng Ilbo and the Samsung Group have long since gone their separate ways, they had once been under the same entrepreneurial flag, and what with the ongoing allegations of accounting fiddling at Samsung, I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary speculation on why I’m writing this column. Yet I write it because I feel it is in the interest of our country to do so.
At a company meeting titled “The 10th Anniversary of New Management,” the Samsung Group’s chairman Lee Kun-hee discussed the present and the future of our country. I read about the meeting in a short article but it was long enough to make me take pause.
Mr. Lee talked of our present situation as a fork in the road, where we either join the advanced countries ahead of us, or lag behind and experience further economic and social backwardness. Should we not close the gap between us and the advanced countries, he said, we will soon be overtaken by China, possibly losing all our businesses in the next 5 to 10 years. The chairman talked of achieving a mean income of $20,000 per person. Once we achieve this goal, our basic necessities such as food, clothing and housing will be solved while labor-management problems or other conflicts among interest groups will be greatly alleviated.
While most people would agree to the reality of this prescription, many would still feel reluctant about a proposal to “make the pie bigger” until it reached $20,000 per person. More would disagree once they heard the means Mr. Lee proposed in achieving this vision. “Let’s cultivate bright minds,” he suggested. If we build even only 50 product lines of the best quality in the world, we will still be able to feed our population. This will require talented human resources.
Is Mr. Lee actually suggesting that we cultivate an elite force based on intelligence in a country where people insist on a downward standardization, urging “If I fall, let’s fall all together”? Shouldn’t we divide the pie we’ve got before making it bigger? Mr. Lee’s words seem strangely out of place in today’s Korea.
There’s a story about a goose that laid golden eggs. We all laughed at the fools who killed the goose but isn’t that what we are doing right now? Here’s another story. It’s Russian. There once was a man named Ivan, who had a goat. He lived by selling the goat’s milk. People envied him for his goat. One day, an angel appearing in the village agreed to grant everyone a wish. Instead of asking for a goat of their own, villagers asked the angel to kill Ivan’s goat. Isn’t this the same distorted jealousy that’s contorting our society? We’re never going to reach the $20,000 mark this way. President Roh Moo-hyun also talked about the $20,000 mark a few days ago. He gave a vague mention of a “cultural reform.” Why does that make me more worried than happy?
If politics does not provide a vision, then we might as well have to make do with a vision presented by a businessman.
* The writer is chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk