[EDITORIALS]Business leaders’ critiqueThe world’s leading chief executives visited Korea as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Busan, and they collectively told Commerce Minister Lee Hee-beom that the nation is below global standards in its ability to provide an environment conducive to foreign investment.
They pointed out that while the nation’s information technology boom, growth potential in genetic engineering, wealth of human resources and geographical advantages make Korea an attractive investment target, the government’s archaic policies and regulations have been an obstacle.
“Because of excessive meddling from civic groups and the government, many businesses have expressed reluctance about expanding their investment in Korea,” said Paul E. Jacobs, chief executive of U.S.-based technology company Qualcomm Inc.
Meg Whitman, head of the world’s largest online auction site, eBay Inc., said, “Korea has many talented individuals, plus companies with strong research and development capabilities, but in terms of providing fair competition, it falls short of international norms.”
David W. Anstice, the Asia regional director for pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc., stressed, “If Korea’s biotech industry is to improve, the government must create an international investment environment based on a market economy, and adjust the regulations on intellectual property accordingly.”
These comments reflect foreign businesses’ hesitation to invest here, despite the attractive points. These are euphemistic statements to the Korean government that unless its regulations, anti-business sentiment and anti-market policies change, foreign investment will not come here easily.
Given this attitude, it is little wonder that, despite the Roh administration’s consistent emphasis on the importance of foreign investment, there have been no outstanding results. The business leaders have astutely recognized the inconsistency in the government’s stance. On the surface, we tell the world we will make ourselves readily available for foreign investment, but restrictive regulations remain in place. Such contradictions cannot be hidden behind deceptive publicity campaigns.
Trying to attract foreign businesses only by offering them preferential treatment while failing to improve the business environment for domestic companies will have its limitations. The scathing words by the business leaders attending APEC remind us that only the sound operation of domestic companies will bring valuable foreign investment.