[NOTEBOOK]Putting hope back in business

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[NOTEBOOK]Putting hope back in business

A Korean television talk-show host, Kim Jae-dong, is also known as “the magic pipe of language.” He is very witty in the way he talks, so much so that his sayings are spreading through the Internet.
In order to keep up his eloquence, he reads four newspapers every day. Before concluding an interview with him, I asked what his dream was. His answer was surprising.
“I think that the American armed forces stationed in Korea are a group of people that our country really needs. American soldiers here sometimes bring trouble to their Korean neighbors because they do not know the culture and etiquette of our country. I want to make witty jokes that will get the American soldiers here to laugh. I want to acquaint them with our culture smoothly, through humor.”
Kim Jae-dong studies English for two hours every day in order to fulfill his dream.
The dream of singers Patty Kim and Choi Hee-jun is to keep their voices until 2009, so that they will be able to go on stage for their 50-year anniversary performances.
The dream of the “liver doctor,” Kim Chung-yong, is to finish developing a vaccine for hepatitis C.
The matchless wrestling warrior turned comedian Kang Ho-dong also has a dream of making more television viewers laugh.
But there are people these days who have lost their dreams. Entrepreneurs, to be exact.
I recently met a president of a synthetic fiber company. “My dream? I lost my dream a long time ago. It is hardly imaginable to make long-term plans. We are busy making it a day at a time.
“For a day-fly like us, there is no tomorrow. There is so much fuss over companies not investing, but there aren’t that many companies that can afford to make investments. The government holds us down with all these regulations, and then pushes us into a corner and says, ‘The economy is bad because companies are not investing.’
“What kind of a company would refuse to invest if it leads to greater profits? After all, the goal of every company is to make money. The problem is that everything is unstable and uncertain.”
The president of a metals company I met had more straightforward complaints. “Frankly speaking, are the circumstances in Korea such that would lead us to invest, looking to the future? Korea is a country where people upload parodies of beheading the chief executive officer of their company on the Internet.
“How can a chief executive find time to encourage the development of new technology or expand overseas connections when he has to spend more than half his time bargaining and struggling with a labor union? If I only could, I would love to pack up everything and emigrate to another country.”
With entrepreneurs losing their dreams, there is no way the economy will develop properly. Until only a few years ago, there was presentation after presentation on how companies planned to develop themselves by 2005 or 2010. There were blueprints showing the sales and profit goals for 5 years and 10 years in the future, and goals for how high they would rank on a worldwide scale.
But for some time it has been hard to find a company presenting its “long-term plan.” Part of the reason is the worsening of the economy, but part is also that chief executive officers do not have time to think long-term. The best way to save the economy is to revive the high spirits of entrepreneurs and help them to have dreams again.
When entrepreneurs are happy and companies do well, more jobs are created, salaries are sufficient and paid on time and tax revenue will increase.
The Industrial Bank of Korea on Aug. 2 chose the president of Hankook Chinaware, Kim Dong-soo, and three other entrepreneurs of small and medium enterprises to induct them into a new “Hall of Fame of Small and Medium Business Entrepreneurs.” This is a ceremony that applauds entrepreneurs who worked hard, concentrated their efforts in one field and developed their enterprises into first-class businesses.
We need more events like this to encourage entrepreneurs, and we have to create “stars” among chief executive officers of high-profit companies. We should stop being envious and jealous, but recognize and respect them instead for their efforts to make money. Only then will a commendable entrepreneur, who can give jobs to 100,000 or even 1 million people, be born. A country can only become healthy when entrepreneurs live on dreams and hope.

* The writer is a deputy industry news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Dong-sub
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