[VIEWPOINT]A loss of hope and confidenceA few days ago the Korea Development Institute, a government-affiliated research institute, said that the problem of our economy is not simply financial stagnation but widespread uneasiness over our economy’s future.
Apparently the economic anxiety derives from people’s concerns over the longer-term potential of our economy. In other words, people are afraid that our economy will not develop properly in the future. What exactly is development potential and why are people worried about it?
If a child can eat well, sleep well and play freely, he or she will grow well. The same goes for the economy. If each economic player acts freely and without fear, and saves money and invests with hope for the future, the development potential of our economy will be strong. Hence, trust in the environment and hope for the future are important. But if this trust and hope are damaged, investment plans falter and people start to look for freer investment locales abroad.
Who has damaged our trust and hope? The administration is responsible. Our people are not a pessimistic people. How could we have achieved over 30 years of economic development if we were pessimistic and naive? And how can we explain the success stories that Koreans have achieved in all corners of the world, making money through hard work? Considering that the national character of a country doesn’t change overnight, we can only say that the helplessness of the Korean people these days is due to bad leadership.
According to a newspaper report, when Cardinal Stephen Kim met the president, he made a point of saying, “Embrace the critical newspapers. This will not only look good, but then they will start to cooperate with government policies.” But the president replied, “That is something the strong can do. But I belong to the weak, so I cannot do that.” Back in our school debates, people were classified clearly into the strong or the weak, the rich or the poor. If anyone asked what the standard was for dividing people like this, that person was called an anti-reformist or a weak idealist.
Therefore everybody was made to accept the dichotomous way of thinking that people who are weak and poor are good and that people who are strong and rich are bad. But such fictions do not last long. It did not take long to figure out that such a standard is not only arrogant but that the world is not easily divided into two groups like that. Moreover, this way of thinking is also responsible for creating hostility that makes us think that our side is right and the other side is not, so we have to destroy the other side.
Time has passed, but those who still have not gotten rid of such thinking are leading the country. These people are attacking the “enemy” on an almost daily basis. The problem is that such attacks do not stop at oppressing the enemy but are threatening the freedom and assets of the people. The so-called four reform bills are good examples. The press regulation bill, for example, is trying to control “ugly conservative” newspapers by establishing strange standards that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
This bill, of course, violates freedom of speech. The private school bill seriously violates property rights and the freedom to make choices based on property rights. Students and schools that have already been deprived of the freedom of choice might now have to adhere to a specific ideological education that the strong who pretend to be weak have set up. The proposal for abolition of the National Security Law will expand the freedom of a small minority while threatening the freedom of the majority. For the free activity of a minority that can threaten the system, the majority is caused to be anxious about the destruction of the system.
People shrink back because the media, education and security are all being buffeted too hard under a vague slogan of reform or public interest. On the pretext of reform and public interest, freedom, property and even the safety of Koreans are under threat. Yet even as the administration is saying that, the private sector is not investing enough.
So the administration then says it will lead the economy by making big economic plans. If you substitute a public economy for a private economy, that is called socialism. Under these circumstances, how can trust and hope be built? Will businessmen make investments? Won’t people worry over the future of the system, not to mention our growth potential?
* The writer is a professor of economics at Sogang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Nam Sung-il