[NOTEBOOK]Accurate terminology, please

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[NOTEBOOK]Accurate terminology, please

People sometimes find themselves in awkward positions because they misunderstand something that has been said. A misconstrued nuance in expression can result in misunderstanding and mistrust, even in the worsening of relationships, making it hard to reconcile.
That is why scholars explain the definitions of their words before they begin arguments. Everyone involved in the discussion is clear on what the words mean and how they are to be used. This prevents emotional criticism and quarrels, allowing people to concentrate on constructive discussions.
Of course, not everything in the world works according to strict rules like the discussions of scholars. Slow speech and vague expressions can have a stronger effect. Even politicians intentionally use suggestive words in their speeches to stimulate listeners, or to allow their words to be interpreted in different ways.
However, there is a need to define the terms that are used to indicate important social changes. The definitions of the words need to be agreed upon at a level of common sense, if not at a level of scientific standard. “Market reform” is an expression used lately that needs to be defined.
President Roh Moo-hyun, returning after his impeachment, announced that his policies would be based on a “market reform roadmap,” adding that the people of Korea agreed on the need for a “free, fair and clear market.” Park Bong-heum, director general for policy planning at the Blue House, explained, “If activating the economy in the short term, and making the market clearer and improving the system to the global level for continuous growth in the long term, is called reform, then we are implementing market reform”.
But out on the streets, there is still a lot of talk about the words “market” and “reform”. Some say the policy is based more on reform than on the market, while others are not sure what the subject of reform is. Whether one is for or against the policy, not knowing what the words mean can lead to pointless debates and unnecessary conflicts.
“Market” is defined as a place where commercial transactions are carried out, or as a relationship of demand and supply. The dictionary definition of “reform” is “to correct and make new.” This means that a market is something that doesn’t need to be reformed, nor can it be, because the government has no logical reason to correct commercial transactions that are carried out naturally, nor to correct a relationship of demand and supply.
The center of the misunderstanding is the new expression “market reform,” which was made by combining two words that are not easily used together. The Fair Trade Commission’s “Three-Year Market Reform Road Map” contains information on issues like improvement of corporate governance and the total investment limit policy. Calling it “business reform” would be more appropriate, but “business reform” does not have a positive ring to it. Putting pressure on businesses at a time when saving the economy is a priority cannot look good, and so the new expression was coined using “market” instead of “business.” The problem is that a change in expression does not change the truth. When the government calls for “market reform,” the businesses know that actually means: “Businesses will be the subject of reform.”
There are not many companies that would like the idea of being the subject of reform. It makes them uneasy. In spite of the government’s pleas to save the economy, businesses that have worries over reform are still not investing. The mistrust brought about by the use of inaccurate words needs to be dispelled before there is talk about the justness of reform, or efforts to spur investment.

* The writer is the business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Kim Jong-soo

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