[EDITORIALS]A momentous year ahead

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[EDITORIALS]A momentous year ahead

The dawn of the first day of the year 2007 has broken. The old saying that this year is the year of the golden pig according to the Oriental horoscope has given regular people hope for the future.
We led a hard life last year, making it easier for people to grasp at superstitions for hope. The rate of unemployment was 3.2 percent, but the rate of youth unemployment was as high as 7.5 percent and the chance for our youth to find jobs was as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle.
As if sneering at real estate policy programs to rein in inflation, the skyrocketing housing prices robbed us of hope for the future.
But we are the people who overcame hardships that we have confronted at critical moments of history. Ten years ago, we overcame the foreign exchange crisis with a concerted effort by the people. This year, we are asked again to play a pivotal role for the future of the nation.
Dec. 19 of this year is the day we will elect our new president. If we are not to repent of what we are about to do, we shouldn’t be swayed by irresponsible populism. We must choose a new leader properly.
Then, what kind of a leader do we need? We should select one who will lead the nation with a vision for the future, not one who will lead the people into the past with obsolete ideology. Instead of dividing the people and fanning conflicts, he or she should be able to integrate people and elicit a consensus among the people. We need a leader who will help people live comfortably and revive the economy.
It is unavoidable that people’s attention is centered on the election of the president from the beginning of the year. Our society will suffer from more serious social conflicts and division in this year because of the presidential election. Political parties as well as the president must pay attention to the task of achieving national integration and curing social conflicts instead of fanning them.
It is too late for them to start new projects. They should not waste the national treasure by launching new projects that should be decided on by the next president.
And they should not be caught up in the greed of wanting to leave an achievement like a summit meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.
The fair management of the election is the most important task of all. If the president plays a central role in forming a national integration, the people will not spare any help they can offer.
The presidential candidates should not concentrate only on winning the election. They must agonize over what they should do for the nation. Democracy cannot be achieved by elections only. Democracy will work only when all our social systems work smoothly. For this, we need the cooperation of the presidential candidates. As political leaders, they should pay attention to keeping law and order and stability.
For a solution of North Korea’s nuclear problem, we need the bipartisan cooperation of politicians. The government must draw a consensus from the people by providing enough information to politicians of both sides.
The relations between Seoul and Washington are in the worst state in our history. The confidence of both governments in the other is at the bottom. Before the transfer of power to the next administration, there should be minimum level of repair to that rupture. In particular, the free trade agreement with the United States is a way for South Korea, a country without natural resources, to survive amidst fierce international competition.
We cannot neglect the problem of the people’s livelihood ― not even for a single day. If the economy is swept into political turmoil, the last pillar of the nation will be shaken. If the economy collapses, there is no meaning whatsoever in who wins the presidential election.
It is forecast that the economy this year will be in a difficult situation, where the growth rate will not be much over 4 percent. If things go this way, we cannot provide jobs for the youth and it will be difficult to find growth potential for the future.
The key to growth lies in increasing the investment of businesses. If businesses invest actively, jobs will be created and the purses of the people will be filled. For this to happen, the government must ease regulations that obstruct investment. Businesses will survive only when they nurture competitiveness without being swept into the chaos created by the transfer of power.
The harder the nation’s difficulties, the more the people should collect their minds. They should be determined that they will lead the nation to the future.
We have made the economy, which was once in such desperate condition that we always worried about a lack of food before the summer crops came in, grow to become the world’s 11th economic power. South Korea is the only country that has become a donor after being a recipient of international aid in the ruins of a war.
Koreans are people who had the potential to overcome the foreign exchange crisis and made that crisis a tale of the old days. Even if the nation is in a crisis, it will survive if the people keep their balance.

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