[OUTLOOK]Join hands and face the factsThe world economy, which recorded a 3.9-percent growth last year, is expected to grow at a 5-percent rate this year. The global economy may reach peak prosperity in 20 years. More than 1.2 million new jobs were created in the United States in the first half of this year alone, and the Chinese and Indian economies are growing at rates over 10 percent.
The Korean economy, on the other hand, is suffering from lagging domestic demand and a lack of private and foreign investment. Despite an export boom, the seasonally adjusted growth rate for the first quarter was 1 percent.
There are more than 400,000 unemployed young people in the country. Recently, a debt-ridden father killed his 5- and 6-year-old children before jumping into the Han River.
Another mother jumped to her death from an apartment after throwing her children first. At least 27 children were killed last year by parents driven to suicide by debt.
In a recent poll, 74 percent of respondents said they would emigrate if they could. Emigration exhibitions are always jammed full, and pregnant women take the risk of flying abroad so their newborns can have a second nationality.
A whole new social phenomenon has risen: Fathers living alone, having sent their wives and children abroad for the sake of the children’s education, symbolize the total crisis that our society confronts now.
The current economic crisis in Korea cannot be solved by economic policies alone. It has become a fundamental and structural problem.
And yet, for the last decade, instead of focusing on fundamental solutions, we have been pursuing politically-driven slogans, such as former President Kim Young-sam’s drive for “globalization,” the Kim Dae-jung administration’s infatuation with the “venture boom” and the present government’s “Northeast Asian hub” project.
Our economy is currently weakened by a surge of anti-corporate sentiment in society, elements of instability in national security and tension in labor-management relations.
Factional self-interest, contempt for law and order and conflict among classes, regions and generations are also dragging our international competitiveness down. One could say that 10 years from now, we are more likely to be an insignificant nation on China’s periphery than the hub of Northeast Asia.
Surrounded as it is by powerful countries such as China, Japan and Russia, history has not been kind to Korea. To survive in this age of intense international competition, we need an accurate perspective on the world, and an objective view of history.
We must, above all, learn to solve the strife and frictions in our society through conversation and cooperation.
Numerous examples from history teach us the truth of the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” When the son of King Solomon ignored the advice of the elders who aided his father, listening only to his young advisors, the kingdom was divided.
In the end, the kingdom of Judah that his grandfather, King David, had built so arduously was split in half, and 10 of the 12 tribes of the Jewish people formed the kingdom of Israel on their own.
Israel suffered from ceaseless strife, and nine of its 19 kings were assassinated or killed in battle. In 150 years, the kingdom was lost to neighboring people and the Jewish people had to wander the world for 2,500 years without a nation of their own, facing all kinds of hardships and persecution.
A contrasting example from the pages of history is the achievement some 2,400 years ago of Camillus, who managed to bring reconciliation to ancient Rome through dialogue and politics of co-existence when it was on the verge of breaking apart over serious conflict between the social classes.
Reform is fine, and the dream of becoming a “hub of Northeast Asia” is fine, too. However, what we need most right now is to resolve the tension and strife between classes, generations and regions through conversation and through compromise.
The security situation on the Korean Peninsula looks precarious for the next couple of years. When the people as a whole come together to overcome this crisis wisely, then there will be hope for the Korean economy.
This means we should spend less time focusing on the president’s shortcomings and more time encouraging him in his strong points and helping him become a successful president.
Likewise, the president should remember that he is the president of the entire country, not just of Nosamo, his fan club.
He should practice tolerance and understanding, persuading his opponents while respecting them, as the supreme leader of a country should.
* The writer is a professor of international finance at George Washington University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Yoon-shik