[FOUNTAIN]Determining investment and speculation

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[FOUNTAIN]Determining investment and speculation

Whether it be in real estate or currency exchange, the image of tugi, or speculation, is inevitably negative. But “tugi” originally referred to the “spiritual concurrence of a teacher and an apprentice,” or “a grand awakening” in Buddhism. Unlike the unfavorable secular meaning, tugi used to have a sacred, religious meaning.
It is unclear how tugi came to refer to the dangerous money game. The inner struggle of the Buddhist practice of austerity might have corroded into the petty guile of speculators.
On the contrary, tuja, or investment, projects a positive image, referring to a more long-term economic activity. Generally, tuja is encouraged, but tugi is considered an evil.
Then how can we distinguish investment from speculation? Is there a clear line separating the two? In general, committing money in order to gain a financial return for a long term is considered an investment, while sinking money for a shortterm is speculation. Taking a great profit in a short period of time would be considered malicious speculation, whereas earning a fortune in the long run is thought to be a successful investment decision.
But whether the period of investment is long or short only depends on how long it takes to gain a targeted return. If a speculator purchased land and kept it for a long period because the price of the land did not skyrocket, could it be considered an investment?
If an investment is too heated, it could sometimes be categorized as speculation. At the height of the information technology boom in 1999, the industry was revered as an investment darling. But after the bubble burst, the heated investment boom was criticized as speculation.
Lee Hun-jai, the newly appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, proclaimed in a news conference that he would not let speculators or irresponsible market participants ruin the economy.
In the chemical laboratory, litmus paper is always handy to distinguish an acid from a base. But the reality is not that simple. Reaching a concurrence between the government and the market is as hard as the Buddhist tugi. A veteran bureaucrat who is returning to the top economic position for his second stint, Mr. Lee surely knows how complicated the situation is. We should pay attention to how he sets investment and speculation apart.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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