[FORUM]Shut your mouth, enjoy lifeLoath to sit around looking at his idle factory during a labor strike, a businessman went abroad. After wandering aimlessly through several countries, he revisited a small company in Japan that he had visited about 10 years earlier. He stopped in front of the door and noticed a motto attached to a column on the portal. The motto read, “We devote our lives to our job.” How could that motto survive for so long? He had seen it on his earlier trip. How could such an old-fashioned view of labor remain without being harshly judged? Hadn’t there been criticisms that it was labor exploitation or human rights oppression?
With mixed feelings, he just stood there. Emotions surged from the memories of having been harassed until then with labor-management disputes, and tears came into his eyes. If there had been no one around, he said, he would have cried aloud.
Businessmen have been unusually silent at meetings, whether small or big. They are so in seminars and in social gatherings as well. When the new administration took office one and a half years ago, they did not hesitate to present suggestions with considerable expectations. But then they began to shut their mouths, which was not normal. They say they are heavy-hearted because they cannot hear any response from the government and the National Assembly, even if they make some suggestions. What they hear are only voices that shake the market system or reveal socialist inclinations.
Even if they are given a tax cut, businesses are not likely to invest. The information they want is in what form they can keep cash. Watch the movement of large businesses, which have secured financial stability un-precedented in history. Recording more than a trillion won in operating profits, some businesses do not unfold their wings to invest. Instead of investing in facilities, they put the priority of their management on securing cash. And they keep silent.
They are greatly hurt by the economic view of the 386 generation which instigates hatred against the haves. Their hearts ache to be criticized in a lump without distinguishing between sound and unsound businesses. Following the lead of members of the “trillion club,” some small and medium businesses have begun to pay attention to securing cash. Although their financial structure has improved, they look away from investment. Businessmen take to golfing more and more. Whether it is during the week or on weekends, they meet other businessmen and grumble, feeling pessimistic and disappointed. Even those businessmen who wander around at home or drift along abroad are engaged in a serious experiment to see how long they can endure without investing.
As the experiment lengthens, the number of participants may increase. Objects of a clean-up campaign, the rich stop spending and the number of workdays lost in Korea because of strikes ranks at the top among the major countries in the world. This reality makes them keep silent.
The feelings of economic players, who have overcome all kinds of regulations and tough negotiations with labor unions but then have to move their factories overseas or give up running their businesses altogether, are condensed in a sentence, “Now we will just live easily.”
The businessman who shed tears to see the motto “We devote our lives to our job” in Japan left again for a foreign country a few days ago. He said he was afraid of entering his factory, where union members fight at the risk of their lives. Views on business and labor have so violently changed that such a motto would mean “devotion to job” to one side and “life or death struggle” to the other.
He asks again. For what do we businessmen live? If hard-working businessmen leave the market and the market keeps silent, this surely means that the revenge of the market has begun. The shadow cast over employment and growth becomes even darker.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo
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