&#91EDITORIALS&#93Watch your words, Mr. Roh

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Watch your words, Mr. Roh

At a meeting with business executives from high-tech start-up firms and medium-size companies, President Roh Moo-hyun made some remarks about the Korean economy that were instructive. They revealed to a certain extent how well he understands the economy’s workings.
He pointed out some problems of the economy appropriately and suggested some solutions for those problems. He was right to say, “Wage increases not accompanied by productivity improvements should not be allowed.” He warned of a tendency for labor unions to become “aristocratic and power-oriented.” He also said, “I will not pursue an economic stimulus that will damage our growth potential.”
Mr. Roh has showed signs recently of having a better understanding of the reality of the Korean economy ― a much better understanding than he had when he was inaugurated. But some of his other comments left us feeling frustrated and wondering about his grasp of the essentials.
He told the business executives, “Don’t force me to stick to the law and principles,” and added, “Why do you drive the government into the corner as if it has committed a serious crime when it has only given in to labor a little?” We are at a loss to explain why those remarks were necessary.
Labor-management relations are the main problem of the Korean economy. Excessive demands of militant unions, illegal strikes, a high cost-low efficiency structure and inconsistent government policies discourage businessmen from managing businesses in Korea, and those are the main causes of Korea’s weakening international competitiveness. The government must have a vision for the future, deregulate and engage in dialogue with generosity, but with law and principle in the face of illegalities. Then people will follow and the economy will revive. The leadership that the business community asked for in a recent statement is needed greatly.
A presidential word can either save or damage the economy. The president must refrain from making remarks that create unnecessary shock and anxiety.
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