[Viewpoint]Ideals have to meet reality

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[Viewpoint]Ideals have to meet reality

There is no use having a good cause without the means to achieve it.
We have already experienced the bitter end of politics that ignored reality.
At the beginning of their terms, former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung were under the illusion that they were right at all times.
They had too much pride in their ethical standards. However, they became lame ducks all of a sudden when their ethical reputations were damaged by their sons’ wrongdoing while they were in office.
President Roh Moo-hyun stepped down yesterday.
He had proclaimed he would solve the problem of social polarization and expand welfare.
But his policy goals did not correspond to the times. As a result, the people turned a cold shoulder to him.
On the other hand, politics doesn’t highlight realistic policies or focus on politicians’ achievements.
Politicians may get immediate gains from such political games.
However there is no dignity or pride in such politics.
There are only calculations of losses or gains, but certainly no room for affection or respect.
We should not follow the road taken by progressives without accomplishments, nor take the one pursued by conservatives without pride or hope.
Recently I visited Japan at the invitation of the Nippon Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation.
I was given opportunities to interview some leading Japanese entrepreneurs and politicians.
I was most impressed upon meeting Nobuo Tateisi, the former president of Omron. He is well known to have played a leading role in introducing the spirit of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Japanese businesses.
Omron’s corporate ideology is that businesses are public organs of society.
Tateisi’s definition of companies’ corporate social responsibility does not stop at making a profit and abiding by the law.
Businesses have to abide by labor ethics as well as fair trade ethics and contribute actively to society, too.
Furthermore, he said, large companies have the responsibility to persuade subcontractors and agents to practice corporate social responsibility.
He also said they have the responsibility to monitor whether their subsidiaries observe corporate social responsibility or not.
A big Japanese company has signed CSR contracts which bind all sides to abide by laws and regulations on environmental protection and labor with about 9,000 subcontractors throughout the world.
I asked Tateisi: “The goal of a company is to make profits. If the cost of CSR is reflected in the prices of its products, won’t it therefore weaken the competitiveness of the company?”
He said, “The age in which corporate social responsibility will be a factor that strengthens international competitiveness is approaching.”
He also said that by around October 2010, the International Organization for Standardization will be issuing ISO26000 certifications to businesses that abide by corporate social responsibility standards.
This certification will help consumers have more confidence in companies. Those businesses, in turn, will be able to use that confidence as a sales strategy.
This is the logic behind CSR: When a company considers the potential business loss of trust due to its failure to abide by the corporate social responsibility standards, the costs accrued by practicing CSR will be small.
The Chinese government is also strongly recommending that Chinese companies branching out overseas CSR practice.
Now it’s no use telling a company to be socially responsible even if they lose doing it. A company that cannot make profits will have to go bankrupt, and such a company will not even have the opportunity to practice CSR.
However, if abiding by the CSR does not hurt a company’s profit, there is no company that would not want to abide by CSR standards. In such a case, both the company and society benefit.
The same applies to politics. If political targets, as well as policy goals, are helpful to the members of society and ultimately win politicians increased approval ratings, that will be ideal.
Due to revalations that some of the nominees for cabinet ministers and senior presidential secretaries named for the new administration possess large amounts of personal assets or are involved in controversy over plagiarism, the whole nation is in turmoil.
What is the problem with having a fortune if it was acquired by righteous means?
It could happen that a lot of wealthy people were selected by coincidence when the search was made for talented people.
However, the newly launched government should have considered how the people would view its composition.
It can be a problem if a single home owner would be a rarity among cabinet members. Koreans are particularly sensitive about ownership of multiple real estate properties.
The plagiarism problem should also be judged from a commonsense point of view.
The administration of President Lee Myung-bak was launched yesterday.
The people hope both the president and his government prove to be effective and hardworking.
Although it may have been difficult to make all the people agree with the president’s personnel choices, it would have been better if some of the new cabinet ministers did not come across as objectionable to the people.
The political ability of a leader lies in his ability to temper a good cause with reality.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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