Wrap up the EU-Korea free trade pactThe JoongAng Daily asked business and cultural figures to express their various expectations for the new president. Business leaders, both Korean and non-Korean, hope the new administration will improve the business environment by deregulating the economy. The cultural figures hope the former CEO will also have a cultural mindset as president.
Wrap up the EU-Korea free trade pact
The European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea, the voice of the 27-country strong European business community, congratulates President Lee Myung-bak on assuming office and looks forward to his fresh approach to governance.
We deeply appreciate the encouraging signals he has been sending to foreign investors. It encourages us to contribute even more toward Korea’s rapid economic advancement.
The commercial presence of the European Union in Korea is unparalleled in the region. For Korea and Koreans, EU firms provide unique opportunities for the transfer of know-how and the adaptation of international practices. EU-invested companies provide attractive job opportunities to Koreans. The EU’s high social standards give it an excellent reputation.
It should also be kept in mind here that a majority of the EU investments are in greenfield projects and not speculative in nature.
Despite this, if one goes by the year-on-year trends, foreign investment into Korea has been declining for three years running, with funds from the European Union and Japan in particular falling greatly.
One reason people give is that Korea is becoming less competitive as a global production base than China and India and also less attractive as a global research and development center than Japan and Singapore. There is no doubt efforts need to be redoubled to facilitate foreign investment. Particular attention should be paid to living conditions, education and labor relations. With the EU accounting for the largest share of foreign investment into Korea― a majority of them in greenfield projects which generate employment ― we are glad President Lee has promised to give these issues due consideration.
The EUCCK is however, slightly disappointed at the pace of the EU-Korea FTA negotiations. An FTA is critically important for Korea in the context of export market diversification, as a catalyst toward enhancing economic competitiveness and as a source for more balanced growth. We hope the new administration will ensure the negotiations are wrapped up fast. We believe this is an historic opportunity to improve the prospects for European companies in Korea. A good bilateral free trade agreement between Europe and Korea will create more trade and more prosperity in Korea as well as Europe, for companies as well as consumers.
We would also like President Lee to support implementing and bringing to life the idea of a Europe Center in Seoul which is presently in discussion with the Seoul City Government. Such a center would help provide a platform for European businesses, Korean-European companies, incubate Korean-European ventures and could also be a home for embassies and European culture alike. That would help make Seoul and Korea a better and more attractive place for Europeans to live and to do business in.
The new government’s commitment to the twin objectives of creating a better business environment and the improvement of people’s livelihoods is laudable. The European business community stands ready to support you fully in this endeavor.
We anticipate a much better investment climate under the new administration and are sure President Lee will not disappoint us.
Acting president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea
Seoul needs a world-class museum
I want the new president to set up a world-class museum in the center of Seoul. It could be a proud landmark and a city shelter, in the same way the Tate Modern is to London and the Museum of Modern Art is to New York.
Korea has too little to offer to foreign tourists. The living cost is high, and the tourism infrastructure is too weak compared to other Asian countries. I want the new government to pay more attention to the global art scene. Bilbao, Spain, would not have the same authority without the Guggenheim Museum nor would New York be the same without the Museum of Modern Art. Schaulager, a new Swiss museum in Basel, has turned into a contemporary Mecca for global art lovers by housing amazing collections.
Frankly, my face blushes in embarrassment at the collection we have at the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
The government is too careful. They won’t even go near an artwork that costs more than 100 million won ($105,800), which is nothing in the current scale of the global art market. The president should come up with aggressive cultural policies to invest in art.
I also want the new president to possess a sharp and global cultural agenda. I was quite impressed when the former French president Francois Mitterrand invited major gallery owners from around the world 10 years ago to celebrate its Year of Korea. I want our new president to possess an open cultural view. That way he could raise the global reputation of Korean art and enhance the nation’s image.
When he was mayor of Seoul, President Lee Myung-bak showed an interest in turning the capital into a premium-brand city. He should push that way of thinking harder with bold cultural policies.
Director of the Park Ryu-sook Gallery
Promote and support traditional arts
I want the new president to revise the current music education policy so young Koreans can familiarize themselves with pansori, a traditional Korean opera, at a very early age. It’s hard otherwise to make people feel at ease about traditional Korean music. When my granddaughters were young, they used to sing along when I practiced at home. But as soon they went to kindergarten, they didn’t want to sing anymore. Suddenly, the sound was odd to them because Korean traditional music was different from the piano or violin that other kids learned. I think the idea continues when children get older. That’s why we have such a low interest in traditional performances.
We can change the perception by including traditional Korean music in the general music curriculum of local elementary schools. It’s hard to find countries like Korea with such a rich musical heritage, and the government should stress these values clearly in their cultural policies.
Also, I want the new president to come up with a support system to fund and promote traditional Korean arts abroad. I want him to educate the world about its history.
If his plan for the canal succeeds, I want him to use it effectively to promote our culture, instead of just turning it into a Disneyland. It would be nice to see him introduce Korean traditional music in the canal. Not every form of art can be entertaining at first, but I am certain this would gain prominence in the long run.
Last, I want our new president to have a cultural mind in his decision-making.
I want him to value our history just as he is open to new changes. We should bear in mind that our musical tradition wouldn’t have survived this far if our musical spirit wasn’t as strong as the grass on a field.
A renowned pansori artist
Boost the total amount of corporate investment
We Koreans have great expectations and support for the new administration, which has promised to save the economy. To meet such expectations, the new president should build a business-friendly environment.
An environment in which companies, the essential members of a market economy, can actively invest, should be formed. Boosting corporate investment is very important not only to secure the nation’s future growth but also to create employment. First, the regulatory system should be changed in accordance with global standards. Developed countries have minimal regulations, which they vigorously apply, to guarantee people’s creativity. On the other hand, Korea has regulations that are too vague and can be applied too widely. They give the bureaucracy and government agencies too much discretionary power to make arbitrary interpretations. Korea needs to convert to a a regulatory system with predictability. Such a system means corporate investment will automatically expand.
In addition, the stabilization of labor-management relations is indispensable to making a business-friendly environment. Korea has been ranked the lowest in labor-management relations every year by the Switzerland-based IMDs and other international think tank surveys. The instability of labor-management relations has been leading to a deterioration of the national competitiveness. Accordingly, the new administration should make it clear that it will accept labor policies based on laws and principles, but illegalities will be punished. I am confident the new administration will build a top-class country, in which every person grows and develops, unless it forgets its original intention to focus on the economy.
Vice chairman of the Korea Employers Federation
Continue to reach out globally and seek exchanges
I would like to convey my heartfelt congratulations to President Lee Myung-bak on assuming office as the 17th president of Korea.
The new government’s commitment to the twin objectives of creating a better business environment and improving Korean people’s livelihood is commendable. Foreign investors in Korea deeply appreciate the encouraging signals that have been sent so far, honoring the core campaign pledge to revive the economy and to achieve a high growth rate. We expect the new administration to steer a clear pro-business course while taking the necessary steps to attract further foreign direct investment, deregulate the economy, increase competition, liberalize the labor market and foster trade.
The success of Renault Samsung Motors, a Korean company that is a joint venture between a leading Korean technology company and a leading French and European car company, is a clear demonstration that Korea is a good choice for foreign investors. It also shows that better results can be achieved through cooperation and mutual respect, merging the best of both cultures.
Korea’s further growth will be based on global outreach and exchange. The current program of FTA negotiations will be the backbone of this development. Along the way, the weaker segments of the economy, primarily services and SME’s, will require modernization and support. Also, Korea’s stature as a world power entails larger responsibilities regarding culture and the environment. Two recent tragic events, the oil spill in Taean and the fire at Namdeamun, remind us of the need to preserve our heritage and our environment.
President and CEO of Renault Samsung Motors