[EDITORIALS]Let’s hold onto our dreams and our hopes for the futureThe year 2005 has dawned. No one seems to be able to say confidently that things will get better in the new year. Maybe this is because people led a hard life last year. Young people were depressed because they couldn’t find jobs even after graduating from universities. Many family heads were made helpless because they lost their jobs. Businessmen tried hard year-round to keep their companies running, but they started to realize that Korea was becoming a difficult place to run a business.
Nevertheless, we dare to suggest that there is hope for the future. However difficult reality might be, if we keep our dream and hope for the future, we can endure the hardship. One hundred years ago, our forefathers signed a shameful protection treaty with imperial Japan and lost Korea’s independence, but we endured our national suffering and ultimately achieved national liberation because we had the dream of restoring independence. Likewise, we must start this new year with the hope that we will ultimately exit the rough, dark tunnel we are in. Darkness ends when the day breaks. After the tide ebbs, it certainly will rise again.
The reason we can speak of hope is that we believe in our people’s potential. We overcame the foreign exchange crisis of 1997. At that time, we were united as one. We came together in the belief that we could overcome the trial. What we need now is that unity, and a “can-do” spirit. If only we are united in the belief that we can do everything, there is nothing we can’t overcome.
In order to unite as one, we have to recognize our differences and find a way to harmonize them. We have seen clearly that we cannot move a single step forward if we are divided or in conflict. The goal of our unity, no doubt, is reviving the economy. This year, the attention and the capabilities of the whole nation should be focused on this.
The political community should be faithful to its original role from now on. The duty of politics is the integration of people. Politicians should not try to fan, aggravate and exploit conflicts, as they do now. This year, there will be by-elections. The life-and-death struggle between the governing and opposition parties is already apparent. When the governing party, which is determined to keep its National Assembly majority, and the opposition, which desires to take seats away from it, collide, the only damage inflicted will be to the people. The government must ensure electoral fairness through the strict management of elections, and the people must fulfill their role as superintendents. What is important is not which party secures a majority, but what politics can do to revive the economy.
Korea’s foreign affairs and national security are in more unfavorable circumstances than ever. Talks over the North Korean nuclear weapons program are at a crossroads, and could arrive at a catastrophic end or succeed with a major compromise. Dialogue and confidence-building between North and South Korea are essential now. The importance of our alliance with the United States is greater than it has been at any other time. Of course, Seoul-Washington relations should change according to the trends of the times. But we shouldn’t forget that the alliance is the foundation of our survival and our national security.
All state management should be concentrated on the economy. The most important task is to create jobs. Our society has no future if college graduates are unable to find employment and heads of families in their 40s wander the streets because they have no jobs. The government is aiming for 5 percent growth and 400,000 new jobs in the new year. The prospects are still unclear. Above all, we must create an atmosphere in which business feels like investing. We must clear away uncertainties so that those with money feel like opening their purses. This is what the government and the political community must do. For this, we need the president’s firm determination to concentrate on the economy and on strong leadership. The economy should not be shaken by politics. There should be no more uncertainty or inconsistent policies causing confusion among the people and among businesses. Our economy has been unable to catch up with the global growth rate for the past two years, and we are fast losing the driving forces behind our economic growth. We should not waste any more time on the debate over whether redistribution or growth should come first. We must concentrate on growth for at least this one year. We must tend to the urgent matter first.
That does not mean that we shouldn’t care about lessening the gap between the rich and the poor. To make our community a place where all can live together, we must reinforce and expand our national welfare policies to provide minimal living standards for those living below the poverty line. Most of all, we need to care for our neighbors with warm hearts and volunteering spirits. Labor-management relations should also be resolved with a sense of community.
In the past year, the debate over whether to move the capital became an energy-consuming controversy, not only for the residents of Chungcheong province, where the new capital would have been located, but for all the people. We need to establish a long-term plan to determine the most desirable option for the entire country. Plans made in haste, tending only to immediate problems, will only bring more confusion and waste more opportunity in the end. We need to keep pursuing more balanced development, apart from a plan to build an administrative capital, by delegating power to local governments and constructing industrial cities.
The JoongAng Ilbo will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year. We have left youth behind and are entering our adult years. We take pride that the JoongAng Ilbo has become an institution in this country. Equally, we feel a responsibility to promote and uphold prosperity and peace in our society. We will continue our role as a voice of unity and a mediator of strife within the framework of democracy and a market economy. We will keep the doors of the JoongAng Ilbo wide open for different opinions and beliefs to be expressed.
This year, the JoongAng Ilbo will face a great change with our publisher Hong Seok-hyun’s appointment as ambassador to the United States. We hope that Mr. Hong, in his new mission, will play a major role in promoting the interests of our country. Mr. Hong has led the JoongAng Ilbo in the last decade and pulled us up to our present level. Now the JoongAng Ilbo must go its own way, regardless of the doings of our biggest shareholder, and continue as a voice of conscience.
We will be bold in our criticism of any abuse of power, and we will strive to correct the wrongs of society. We will act as a torch, lighting the direction in which we believe our society should go. To this end, our internal affairs will be ruled even more strictly by transparency and fairness. We will maintain editorial independence and healthy management, side by side. The JoongAng Ilbo lives by the criticism and praise of its readers. We ask for your continued interest and encouragement. To our readers, we promise to become the best and most trustworthy newspaper.