[EDITORIALS]Daunting economic tasksLee Hun-jai, the newly appointed deputy prime minister for finance and economy faces a plate full of difficult problems. When Mr. Lee was serving as the Financial Supervisory Commission head and in the same position he now holds right after the 1997-98 financial crisis, it was said that he was facing Korea’s most difficult economic times.
But, for the deputy prime minister in charge of economy, the current situation could be even worse. During the financial crisis, there was a public consensus for facing the problems and overcoming the national emergency. But now, Korean society is fragmented and public authority has been undermined.
The Roh administration probably appointed Mr. Lee as the chief of the nation’s economic affairs because it believed he was the right man to overcome the economic difficulties. Indeed, the previous economic team often ignored the principles of economics in handling economic issues and failed to present a longer-term economic vision for the nation. Facing such serious problems as real-estate speculation, credit defaulters and unemployment, the old team only attempted to patch up the problems. As a result, no fundamental solutions were found during the past year to remove the insecure economic mindset of the nation that caused a high unemployment rate and low investment.
The new economic team should take as its first priority the stabilization of the uneasy economic mental state of the nation. Only when that happens will business be motivated again to invest. Only then will our growth potential rise and new jobs be created. The new team should speak with one voice to management and labor that the principles of a market economy are the basis of this administration’s philosophy.
Our economy does not need radical experiments but moderate reforms that will transform the entrenched system slowly to fit global standards without losing its potential for growth. We hope Mr. Lee can mediate the demands from all our interest groups without abandoning his economic principles.
It is Mr. Lee’s responsibility to enforce those principles even as the administration tries to win more seats in the April National Assembly elections on a reform platform.