[OUTLOOK]Unemployment and bribery

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[OUTLOOK]Unemployment and bribery

The JoongAng Ilbo recently recruited entry-level journalists. Seven finalists were chosen out of more than 1,000 applicants. After several rounds of the selection process, 20 survived to face a final interview. As one of the interviewers for that final hurdle, I could not help feeling regret at seeing so many fine young people let go. All the candidates seemed bright and willing to work hard. They all possessed exceptional second language skills. All had the potential of making a great journalist. There were quite a few candidates who had applied for the second time to work for the JoongAng Ilbo. Seeing their faces and thinking of how they must have prepared so long for this one day, I felt sorry for them. Thinking about the desperation those young people would feel after failing to get a job and the anxiety of their parents who wait for good news for their children, I felt guilty. I wished that I could have accepted all of the candidates, but unfortunately, that is not possible when you manage a company.
A company president I met said he had the same feelings. With the economy in the doldrums and little expectation of its getting better next year, the company had not published any recruitment advertisements in the papers, putting out only a small announcement on the corner of its web site. Eighty candidates were chosen out of nearly 1,000 applicants for interviews. “They were all such talented young people. There were many candidates I would have liked to recruit if only I were sure the economy would get better next year,” the company president said. He said he actually felt angry because he could hire only 10 of them. “How could be it that so many capable young people are roaming the streets because they couldn’t find jobs? Who is responsible for this?” He said he felt partly responsible as a member of the establishment in these hard times. “It is the country’s fault if students graduating from even the ten leading universities in the country are still unable to find jobs,” he continued.
Is this a proper country if you have to line up to apply for the janitor’s position at the local government office after graduating from college? This is not about which jobs are more prestigious than others. Think of all the effort that was put into getting a university education. Think not only about the job applicant but his or her parents. You could just feel their frustration and despair.
Several executives and staff members of the JoongAng Ilbo had the chance last weekend to volunteer at the Beautiful Store, a charity shop selling donated items. Customers were already queuing outside the store even before it opened. The sight of young mothers coming hand in hand with their children on a cold Saturday morning to look at second-hand books brought tears to some eyes. I couldn’t help thinking, “What are we to do if after all our efforts in rearing our children, they grow up to be unable to find jobs, to work as janitors after graduating from college?” It has now become redundant to blame the government. I reassure myself that our country will never come to that and that the good times are soon to come, but are the present difficulties indeed a passing spell and will we be able to smell the roses soon?
Who were the people alleged to have received illegal money from corporations? Were they not once honorable members of society respected by their fellow lawyers? Why did they do what they did? Will they resort to the excuse that elections cost money and that it was inevitable? These were the young blood who until recently cried for justice, censuring the older generation for being corrupt and reactionary. How could it be that the first thing they learned when they entered politics was how to steal money? Is there hope for this country?
Lee Hoi-chang, the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party last year, presented himself at the prosecution’s office to answer questions about his illegal campaign funds. What will become of the other candidate, President Roh Moo-hyun? Mr. Roh cannot say that only Mr. Lee should take responsibility because he received some tens of billions of won less than the Grand National Party candidate. Whether he received a tenth of the sum that Mr. Lee received or a hundredth, the money would still be illegal. If one is to go to prison, the other should follow. But the president does not answer to criminal charges while in office.
Does that mean that only Lee Hoi-chang should go to prison? That, too, would not be fair. It would also be unjust to put only those who worked for Mr. Lee, and not Mr. Lee himself, in prison. Should we then set everyone free? The president has declared that he would resign from office should the investigation find that he had received more than a tenth of what the opposition received in illegal campaign funds. This declaration puts the prosecution in a dilemma. Should it restrict its investigation so that it doesn’t find anything more than that ratio? Should it concentrate on digging the dirt on the opposition? In which direction should it swing its sword? Would the public trust its word that it had swung its sword truly and fairly and found that the president had indeed received less than a tenth of the opposition’s black money?
It seems that the president is hoping that the sword will cut off only as much as he has hinted. He keeps on insisting that this would only be fair. Alas, it doesn’t matter which side is bigger or smaller. Once the sword is swung, all sides perish. And meanwhile, the country is left adrift.
The news of the illegal campaign funds has left investors abroad hesitating to trust their money with firms that have misused their funds in paying bribes. Next year, there will be more young people in the streets unable to find jobs. What should we do? Oh, Lord, grant us the wisdom of Solomon!

* The writer is the chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Moon Chang-keuk
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