[FOUNTAIN]Do we have what it takes to prevail?“Break out in sweat! The machine’s noise is your song. A girl reading a French poem in the second-class train car. I detest your delicate hands.”
President Park Chung Hee’s poem, from a 1963 book, was written at a time when 52 percent of the national budget was made up of aid funds from the United States. To Mr. Park, who was determined to save the nation from starvation and poverty, the delicate hands turning the pages of a book of French poems seemed a luxury that we could not afford. As industries and jobs were created and income was generated, Koreans were relieved from the primitive pains of hunger.
The second crisis of the Korean economy broke out in the aftermath of the second world oil shock of 1979 and the consequent 4 percent contraction in 1980. The state-run growth engine that had pursued a compressed development of the market economy was overheated and broke down. It could be compared with the “growing pains” of adolescents.
President Choi Kyu-ha, who had to tour the oil producers to beg for crude oil, shed tears on his airplane bound for the Middle East.
With the help of Kim Jae-ik, a prominent economist and a rational champion of the market economy, President Chun Doo Hwan improved the economy. The determination to protect market stability, even if it meant sacrificing other values, helped the Korean economy develop into a robust young man.
The memories of the third crisis of the Korean economy are still vivid. The East Asian financial crisis of 1997 was a national trial for the middle-aged Korean market. President Kim Dae-jung appealed to the citizens for help, and we overcame the crisis.
President Kim was a leader of the democratization movement, but he promoted industrialists and made the best use of their experience and wisdom to cope with the national crisis.
Once again, we find ourselves in an economic crisis. We are suffering from an obscure condition of being averse to investment even when we have money. The cause is that the market is unreliable and insecure. The attack of the disease did not start from outside but came from within our economy.
The internal anxiety must be overcome with trust and belief. But where can we find that kind of trust today?
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.