[EDITORIALS]Without hope, an exodusKoreans are sending more and more of their personal funds abroad these days. In the first five months this year, personal outflows, for education, job training, tourism and emigration, totaled $8.07 billion, a 15-percent increase over the same period of last year.
In an era of globalization, we cannot blame people for spending money on a foreign education or for tourism. But the recent trend of personal capital flight, and the sharpness of the upturn in those flows, is not normal.
If the amount transferred abroad under the guise of trade financing or other spurious excuses for exporting personal wealth were included in the statistics, the amount would probably be much larger than the official number. Some people worry that this is the beginning of a full-fledged exodus of personal wealth from Korea.
As the flow of funds increases, things are happening outside Korea to suggest where that cash is going. The price of real estate in “Koreatown” in Los Angeles has been skyrocketing lately. Korean money is flowing into the Hong Kong, China and Vietnam property and financial markets. At American high schools, Koreans are clamoring for entry. While Korea’s tourist resorts are packed ― but only with Korean faces ― foreign tourism by Koreans is flourishing, recording record-high numbers of departures.
Why does everybody want to leave Korea? On the surface, people make an excuse about their children’s education. It is certain that Korea’s backward education system boosts the outflow of funds. But a more fundamental reason is anxiety over the future. Murky political struggles, an unstable society, a failing economy, a social atmosphere that treats the wealthy as criminals, and anti-business sentiment and regulations make people frustrated. Therefore, people are turning their backs on their country or are preparing to do so. One survey said 74 percent of Koreans have thought about emigrating.
As money in consumers’ pockets flows out of the country in a river, how can consumption revive? If nothing is done, Korea will be a country without hope. First of all, we have to stop the illegal outflow of money, but it can’t be done by banning the practice. The country should not be made unstable. If there were an atmosphere of hope, people would not leave. Before criticizing those who do, those holding power should reflect on the reasons why.