[OUTLOOK]Channeling the Matsushita spirit

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[OUTLOOK]Channeling the Matsushita spirit

“Japan’s prosperity is not genuine prosperity, but prosperity only on the outside. It will soon hit a dead end.”
This is what Konosuke Matsushita said about Japan’s economy in the 1980s, at the peak of its development. Mr. Matsushita, who has long passed away, was respected as the “God of Management” and the “Patriotic Philosopher.”
Lee Byung-chull, the former chairman of Samsung who has also passed away, respected Mr. Matsushita as a mentor of management.
Do woods always exist where mountains are? Not always. There are many mountains without woods. Mountains exist naturally but woods do not. Thanks to people who plant trees for the future, following generations can enjoy the woods.
Mr. Matsushita worried for the future of his country, which was growing but drying up like a mountain without any woods. So he planted his own trees.
With 10 billion yen ($85 billion) of his own money, he established the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management in order to educate the talented.
The institute opened with 30 students in their 20s in 1980, when Mr. Matsushita was 80 years old. He was far from retiring. He launched a new business of educating the country’s talented youth.
Twenty-five years have since passed. During that period of time, Japan experienced the fall of its bubble economy, as Mr. Matsushita predicted. He passed away in 1989, shortly before his country entered its long tunnel of 10 years of downturn.
However, the trees that Mr. Matsushita planted kept growing in many places. Those young saplings have now reached their 40s and formed a large forest in Japanese society. The forest that Mr. Matsushita cultivated worked as the lung that revived Japan’s economy after 10 years of sluggishness.
The Matsushita Institute has a three-year course and 218 people have graduated from it. The institute has produced two governors, six mayors, 30 legislators and 28 local council members.
The alumni are a group of reformists. They plunged into the central government and local administrative offices without any fancy backgrounds, when prestigious family backgrounds, human networks in the local areas and high educational backgrounds were said to be pre-requisites for becoming successful in the Japanese political field.
These reformists have been dominating the political circle step-by-step.
They are breaking the privileges and prejudices of Japan. The governor of Kanagawa prefecture went to the Matsushita Institute.
He launched a manifesto campaign and reformed Japan’s election culture.
The mayor of Yokohama, the second-largest city in Japan, also went to this institute. He was elected thanks to the manifesto campaign as well. Four years after he entered office, he transformed the city’s decades-old deficit into a surplus for the first time.
Yokohama is regarded as a role model for a local government and is visited by many people ― more than any other city.
Coincidentally, these two are independent of any political party. They learned preparation for the future, innovative thinking and principles of action at the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management.
They focus on finding concrete ways to make people happy. With the mentality of innovation and change, they solve problems while not being involved in the chaos between political factions on differing ideologies.
Mr. Matsushita has long since passed away but his spirit has been nurtured and spread by these mayors, governors, legislators and council members. To find a way out from Japan’s 10 years of sluggish economy, the forest of talented people Mr. Matsushita planted played a large and important role.
Mr. Matsushita’s spirit has moved Kim Tae-ho, the governor of South Gyeongsang province. He has launched a program to send 10 civil workers from his province to the Matsushita Institute, the city of Yokohama and Kanagawa prefecture, at a cost of 200 million won ($212,000).
Korean civil workers are now being impressed by the Matsushita spirit, a key factor for change in the 21st century.
The Matsushita spirit is not only a spirit for Japan, but for the world. Do you want to become a reformist who designs the world anew? I advise you to learn from Mr. Matsushita.

* The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chun Young-gi
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