[FORUM]Focus on the economy

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[FORUM]Focus on the economy

The Blue House and the ruling Our Open Party are showing a Janus-faced attitude. They talk about the livelihood of the people and the economy, but they show little concern about the slow business conditions, mass unemployment and credit instability.
Although foreign experts warn that “rigidity in the Korean labor market can cause Japanese-style stagnation” and that soaring oil prices are forcing civilian aircraft to fly with less water on board, they just look on with folded arms. Their real interest lies elsewhere. Their intention is revealed in their comments about making efforts to reform the media and judiciary, and in their emphasis on reform, meaning the opposite of growth. They are systematically undertaking specific legal revisions on these non-economic issues.
Making decisions on policy priorities is the prerogative of the ruling party. Moreover, its power is stronger than ever. The party grasped administrative power and then the long-sought-after legislative power. Seeing the result of the impeachment decision and the investigation into illegal campaign funds, some point out that the party also virtually grasped judicial power in its broad sense. This amounts to taking power in all three areas. Therefore, the party seems to be tempted to conduct various social reform programs.
But we are concerned if the party considers the people’s livelihood and economic growth an easy task. Is it indeed easy? Let’s change the topic for a moment. Tsze-kung, a disciple of Confucius, once asked, “What should we call a person who rules the people generously and saves the public from difficulties? Can he be called benevolent?”
The disciple knew that Confucius pursued benevolence as an important virtue. That’s why he asked, “If he made people prosper, isn’t it benevolence?” According to the Analects, Confucius taught Tsze-kung, “If that is the case, how can he stop just being benevolent? This is the state of a saint. Even the sage kings Yao and Shun worried if they could not be so.”
Even 2,500 years ago, making the people prosper was an absolute virtue transcending all values. Also, this story shows how difficult it is to rule the people generously and save them from hardship.
Is the present ruling party trusted in this respect? If it were, the public’s concerns over the economy would have eased by now. But they have not, and are even showing the opposite trend.
Before their appointments, most central figures in the present administration were like spectators in a stadium. Advocating justice, national reunification, distribution and the environment, and presenting an anti-war and anti-nuclear stance, all that they could do was criticize the then-ruling party members who were playing on the ground that time.
But they are no longer spectators, but players now. And the party’s performance during the last year deserves a failing grade. The party has covered up its poor performance by criticizing the former ruling party, which moved to the spectators’ seats. Now it cannot make such excuses. It should do its utmost to address the livelihood of the people, but it does not.
Who are our people? They are those who raised questions about the corruption and immorality of the old ruling party and deposed it from power. They expelled the Grand National Party, which had increased gross national product 400-fold in 40 years, and national income 100 times, from $100 per capita 40 years ago, on the ground of lacking noblesse oblige. I wonder if the present ruling party knows that such people are watching it closely with a rod in hand to punish it if it fails to address the people’s livelihood.

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

by Kim Kyo-joon
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