[OUTLOOK]A better separation of powersThe country has fallen into panic in the face of the unprecedented constitutional situation where the presidential rights are suspended. Especially, citizens are worried about the possible negative impact on an already shaky economy.
But we have had similar experiences. The assassination of President Park Chung Hee brought a vacuum of power after an authoritarian regime of 18 years. Although the second oil crisis immediately followed the political turmoil, Korea overcame the double predicament.
The temporary suspension of powers of the president would last at most six months, and under the leadership of Acting President Goh Kun, the prime minister, we will not have much trouble operating as usual.
We need to prevent the discussion over the impeachment from becoming yet another reason for social unrest. The citizens should remain faithful to their duties and wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court.
The stock market certainly reacted sensitively on Friday, when the impeachment bill was passed. But the political instability caused by the impeachment crisis will not exert much influence on the economy.
While our sovereign credit rating could be affected by the national situation, if we prove that we are mature enough to overcome the impeachment crisis in accordance with constitutional order, Korea’s image and confidence could even be elevated. After all, a credit rating is based on a nation or a person’s problem-solving skill.
The question is whether we can respond to the pending economic issues properly. They include household debts and youth unemployment. But we should not be too anxious. The deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Lee Hun-jai, leads an elite squad of economic administrators. The economic team is not deterred by the turmoil from carrying out their duties. The National Assembly election has been scheduled in mid-April, so even if it weren’t for the impeachment case, medium and long-term tasks would have to wait until after the elections.
What is more important is how we deal with the situation after the National Assembly election and the court ruling on the impeachment. Once the election is over and the Constitutional Court makes a decision over the president’s future, we need to make sure that politics is stable and do our best to save the economy.
Then, will the politicians change their behavior of concentrating on political games instead of working to improve the economy? Like many other countries all over the world that make the economy the priority, will Korea return to the principle that values the economy first?
Will the president put reviving the economy and creating a business-friendly environment at the top of the list of the necessary national reforms?
Will the president propose the solid goal of achieving $20,000 per capita income and lead the efforts of citizens in the drive toward that goal? Will politics play a leading role of guiding the economy in the post-impeachment period?
We all need to contemplate these questions. Collaboration of politicians, administrators and businessmen has long been a faint memory from the days of rapid economic development.
In the midst of the campaign fund scandals and the impeachment crisis, the attention of the citizens is focused on how to promote political reform to make politics play a proper role. The principal object of the reform should be the removal of the chronic collusion between politicians and businessmen. We also need to create a framework that can remove the influence of politics in the economy. Companies should be able to concentrate on their own business. At least, politics should not burden or interfere with business activities.
Instead of putting the blame on the politicians, we need to lower our expectation of them. If companies were to operate normally despite political turmoil, the legal system would be more important than political clout.
The point is to establish a solid rule of law. In fact, the problem of labor-management relations owes more to the violation of the law than the violent nature of the disputes.
If the principle of the rule of law is established and firmly rooted in our society, the international community would change its perspective on Korea. The changed attitude could lead to more foreign direct investment.
In order to prevent the economy from becoming a victim of political instability, we should make a solid framework where politics and business are completely separate parts of our society.
When the market economy is firmly established and the principle of rule of law becomes the basis of the country’s social system, the economy would be more resistant to political influence.
It is time for us to concentrate our effort and wisdom on the task of correcting the role of government and its relationship with businesses from new perspectives.
* The writer, a former deputy prime minister for finance and economy, is the board chairman of the National Strategy Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kang Kyong-shik