[VIEWPOINT]We need to aid our entrepreneursFamous writer and management professor Peter F. Drucker wrote about Korea in his 2002 book, “Managing in the Next Society.” During a conversation with a magazine editor, Professor Drucker was asked which country had the best entrepreneurial spirit. He responded that Korea undoubtedly was the best. He said that about 40 years ago, there was no enterprise in Korea because Japan, which had ruled Korea for several decades, did not allow it.
Japan also did not allow most Koreans to receive a higher education, so few people in that generation were educated. By the end of the Korean War, South Korea was devastated. However, Korea is now one of the world’s best producers in approximately 24 areas. It is the leader in shipbuilding and a few other industries.
Koreans were glad that an internationally acclaimed scholar acknowledged our accomplishments over the last three or four decades. In order for a country’s economy to grow, businesses have to prosper. In order for companies to thrive, entrepreneurship has to flourish.
A country with a high entrepreneurial spirit will enjoy prosperity, and a country that lacks that spirit finds it hard to get out of poverty. Why are the people in North Korea, the other half of the peninsula, starving so often? It is not because they are ignorant or incompetent. The cause is their regime, which suppresses the entrepreneurial spirit.
Entrepreneurship brings wealth to a nation. It is gratifying that Korea has the best entrepreneurial spirit, which is very important. However, the problem is that entrepreneurship is increasingly diminishing in Korea. We are at the crossroads between being a developing country and a developed one, and if entrepreneurship dwindles now, the economy will decline. More poetically speaking, we cannot give up now when the high ground is in sight.
What made entrepreneurship degenerate? Entrepreneurs have been discouraged. Just like any other job, entrepreneurs are encouraged and enthused when they find their job worthwhile and receive proper acknowledgement. However, in the last few years, a series of incidents that discouraged entrepreneurs have occurred.
A friend of mine running a mid-sized company complained that the entire nation was bullying entrepreneurs. He said it was impossible for entrepreneurs to do business because of the militant labor unions, tax probes and various regulations.
An aging entrepreneur had been summoned to a National Assembly investigation, and the assemblymen, who were about the age of his children, unreasonably rebuked and admonished him. He lamented that no one would want to start a business any more.
It is thanks to entrepreneurs and engineers that Koreans no longer have to worry about their daily bread for the first time in history. What would the future of our nation be if entrepreneurs are discouraged and no longer want to do business?
While there is a diversity of opinions about the Park Chung Hee administration, there is one thing the authoritarian regime was right about. The government infused the citizens with a “can-do spirit” and encouraged entrepreneurs to do business around the world.
The Roh administration has made some accomplishments. It has made the election process transparent, severed the cozy link between politicians and businessmen, and cracked down on the sex trade. However, it has made the mistake of discouraging entrepreneurs.
The president proclaimed at the beginning of the year that he would collect more tax money and improve welfare. However, his calculation might be wrong.
Wouldn’t it be a better way to improve our welfare if the government backed the entrepreneurs, helped them make more money and then collected more tax from them to take care of the have-nots and lower the unemployment rate of the youth?
I would like to emphasize once more that we have to encourage businessmen and elevate entrepreneurship to make Korea a developed nation with an outstanding welfare system.
* The writer is a pastor and leader of Doorae Community Movement. Translated by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Jin-hong