[EDITORIALS]How to keep Koreans homeMore than 17 trillion won ($16 billion) was spent abroad last year for overseas studies, on tourism and medical services. The actual amount could be even greater considering the outflow of assets owned by Koreans living abroad, individual remittances and the illegal outflow of money by those taking taking advantage of the difference in currency exchange. If this 17 trillion won had stayed in the country, it would have raised the gross domestic product 1.8 percent point. If even only one-fifth of the money that went overseas had been used inside the country, it would have boosted domestic demand and contributed to the recovery of the economy.
There is no need to view studying abroad or overseas tourism negatively. However, the trend has become serious. The deterioration of our education system represented by the collapse of the public education sector has caused an exodus of students going abroad. More than 7 trillion won was spent on education outside Korea last year. This has also brought on serious social problems as the “goose father,” who must fly back and forth from Korea where he works to see his family abroad.
The same goes for overseas tourism. In the case of golf, some 230,000 people spend a total of 500 billion won last year on trips to foreign golf courses and the numbers are expected to grow. If this continues, we will not see any recovery of our economy through the revival of the domestic demand anytime soon.
A plan is needed so that our hard-earned money from exports isn’t wasted abroad. We need to reinforce the regulation of illegal money outflows and redouble efforts to make the rich of the country feel safe and comfortable at home. The most basic solution is to provide education, medical and legal services at the same level as those in advanced countries. That way people wouldn’t feel impelled to go abroad for such services. People should feel free to enjoy golfing and tourism without having to go abroad.
The government’s resolution is needed most of all. It should not be held back by the opposition of related interest groups in making efforts to open the services sector and enhance the international competitiveness in areas such as education, medical services and leisure activities. Enhancing the quality of the services sector is the only way to prevent the outflow of our money abroad and ultimately save our domestic industries and economy.