[OUTLOOK]Learn from local governmentsChung Tae-soo, founder of the Hanbo Group, said, “Why should a master be arrested for the wrongdoings that his servant committed?” After his remark, many people used the word “servant” for a while. The word, however, possesses bad nuances. His shameful remark riled people who had worked hard for his company.
When combined with “government,” however, “servant” sounds good. It makes a “servant government,” or a “public service-oriented government” in academic terminology. A public service-oriented government carries out policies that allow people to have what they want. “Citizens are the president,” the participatory government’s slogan, is based on the theory of such a government.
The core of a public service-oriented government model is job creation and job security.
In modern society, the second phase of life, when people start to settle down in new jobs, is getting shorter. If there is no job creation or job security, one would face trouble in leading a decent life. If good jobs are created for those in their 30s and 40s, middle-aged citizens, who form the backbone of society, would be vitalized. This would also have a good impact on young and elderly citizens.
The Alabama governor’s approval rating surged after a Hyundai Motor plant opened there. Left-wing parties in Spain and Ireland started working hard to attract foreign investment. Since then, both countries’ economic growth rates have increased, along with approval ratings for the leftist parties.
The departments of labor in Germany and Sweden are the world’s most efficient in making labor supply meet demand. Job creation is a common goal of European countries that work hard for better public service.
In mid-April, at a hotel in Paris, Gyeonggi province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu and his party were waiting for guests. They were there for the province’s 100th foreign investment agreement. First Components International, a producer of parts for automobiles, had promised to establish a plant in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. Mr, Sohn’s party stamped the confirmation paper that guaranteed unsparing assistance for the company. At that very moment, demonstrators on the street outside were opposing the French CPE labor law. I wonder whether the protesters’ outcries might have sounded to the Korean governor as congratulations on his successful achievement or as denouncement on the change in his personal political conviction. For the governor was once a labor activist who worked as a factory worker, hiding his educational background.
On April 27 in Paju, Gyeonggi, a ceremony was held to celebrate building the world’s largest LCD plant. This plant, a facility designed to produce a seventh-generation TFT-LCD, was originally to be established in China. But Paju had that original plan changed. At the opening ceremony, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “After being so determined to have the plant here, are you satisfied now, Mr. Governor?” Governor Sohn responded to the president’s comment by bowing to express his gratitude in a cordial manner. That humble gesture meant that he was finished with 4 years of a long, hard journey to invite foreign investment. During that journey, he traveled around the world, circling the globe as often as 14 times. A hundred or so foreign companies provided 80,000 jobs and generated a growth engine for the next 10 years to the people of Gyeonggi Province.
There are similar cases to this, whether or not they are well known to most people. While local governments are doing their best to create jobs, however, the central government seems to be stuck in battles over ideologies.
On May 4, in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, a military raid was conducted, which was as tough as a joint exercise by soldiers and riot police. It was utterly ironic to see protesters chase soldiers and soldiers drive out protesters. If the protest was truly on behalf of villagers who had to leave rice fields and homes they had occupied for generations, the general public might have sympathized with the protesters.
However, ringleaders used the farmers for their anti-U.S. movement, and the clash in Pyeongtaek was revenge for the “betrayal” by the incumbent government.
Some left-wing politicians and legislators seem to have been shocked to see the protesters accuse the incumbent government of changing its once left-wing stance. These politicians and lawmakers are keeping low profiles and the Defense Ministry had to mediate in the battle of ideologies.
Although ideology-oriented politics may or may not make a “decent country,” the government often seems to be stuck in an ideological trap. It is regrettable that it has been hard to hear of any governing party members having endeavored to create new jobs.
Central government officials and lawmakers should learn a lesson from local governments that pour all their energy into consolidating the foundation to build a true public service-oriented country.
* The writer is a professor of sociology at Seoul National University.
by Song Ho-Keun