[FOUNTAIN]Living well, getting along

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[FOUNTAIN]Living well, getting along

How do the rich feel about the current economic climate?
During the country’s meltdown in the East Asian economic crisis in 1997, most Koreans suffered. But thanks to high interest rates, the crisis offered a great chance for the wealthy, especially those with lots of cash in hand, to multiply their fortunes. The rich and the ordinary experienced completely opposite climates. Increases in prices of everyday commodities battered ordinary people, but the rich did not feel the difference quickly.
So some clever people came up with a separate price index that includes the products the rich use. Conjured up by Forbes Magazine, the “cost of living extremely well index” analyzes the price fluctuation of 42 goods and services the very rich consume.
Recently Forbes Korea created a Korean version of the index. The Korean version is based on 40 goods and services that Koreans with assets of 5 billion won or more consume frequently.
The rich are generally more conservative and older, and the rich consumer’s index leads to interesting conclusions when analyzed in respect to the political environment.
The statistics specialists at Gosplan, the Soviet Union’s chief national planning organ, realized that the supply of daily necessities could be a catalyst for political dissatisfaction if shortages led to social turbulence, and they exploited the rationing system with a conscious political intention.
According to Forbes Korea, the rich consumers price index increased by 7.1 percent between October 2002 and October 2003, more than double the increase in consumer price index of 3.3 percent.
Considering their conservative tendencies and the socio-political fluctuations during the period, the rich might have felt more frustrated than average citizens.
If the frustration met with the discontent we feel every day, the combined sentiment could be expressed as a radical demand for change.
Discontent and frustration have existed from the beginning of history. But the intensity of dissatisfaction, and the competency to control the feelings, might not be the same now.
The Soviet Union had Gosplan for over seven decades to control public sentiment, but when the time came, the socialist giant collapsed.

by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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