[Viewpoint]Morning-after concernsThe National Assembly elections were held Wednesday. After getting a conservative president elected for the first time in a decade, the Grand National Party worked hard to win a majority in the Assembly so it could manage the state with more stability.
The opposition parties vowed to put a check on the Grand National Party regardless of their ideological inclinations. Now the party is over.
The campaigners in colorful uniforms will no longer canvass for their candidates at subway station exits, markets and mountain trails. The voters can return to their normal lives.
The cynical voters have seen all the ups and downs and are looking into the future.
After being elected, the candidates who were begging for votes would suddenly change their attitude. They would expecte special treatment to suit their newly earned position.
Transcending party affiliation, they will stand together to raise their annual wages. On issues regarding their professional interests, the lawmakers in the ruling and opposition parties alike will not hesitate to make decisions that go against the people’s wishes. The cynics are sure that after four years, a new pool of politicians will advocate reform and we will see a rerun of the drama.
I truly hope such a cynical forecast does not come true. Korea is not in a position to afford such despair and frustration.
In the last presidential election, the voters clearly affirmed that economic recovery was the most important issue.
To an administration that advocates making a strong economy the main task of the state administration, the domestic and international economic conditions are like heavy winds and big waves.
Korea does not produce a drop of oil, which has soared to more than $100 a barrel. The soaring price of groceries also threatens the government’s efforts to stabilize inflation.
The shock waves from the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States have undermined the confidence of investors in the U.S. market; which in turn is causing extreme chaos in the international capital market. A slow economic recovery and skyrocketing prices are aggravating the cost of living for the middle and lower classes.
The government has to stabilize prices and encourage investment to escape the quagmire of a sluggish economy, yet it has no clear solutions and is growing impatient. But as the old saying goes, haste makes waste. The more pressing the issue, the more time is needed to avoid mistakes.
Economic policies that go against the principles of a global economy will only backfire. The fundamental policy prescription to stabilize prices in an open economy is to lower prices to a level consumers can feel and to pursue the opening of markets, domestic competition and regulatory reform.
If the opening of markets expands but the impact on consumer prices remains minimal, it means the domestic distribution structure has probably become inefficient or that competitors have fixed prices. Therefore, a business-friendly environment that is not friendly to consumers is bound to encounter limitations. When regulations are eased without encouraging competition among companies, then only companies with vested interests enjoy the benefits. In such cases, firms that are not friendly with the administration would attack the government for ignoring the people’s suffering and for siding with business giants. Repeating the mistakes of the conservative governments of the past would not help the nation’s interests or the prospects for re-election of the Grand National Party in four years.
With the business-friendly administration in place, companies are pouring out demands like a laundry list. However, the list does not include any mention of encouraging competition. No company in its right mind would voluntarily request competition. It is up to the politicians to draft and implement consumer-friendly policies, and that is precisely why the citizens are putting their hopes on the National Assembly.
Local voters have sent their lawmakers to the National Assembly to have them on the lookout to prevent precious tax money from being wasted. In the age of globalization, the lawmakers need to look further than their constituencies. Occupying the assembly hall, hiding the gavel from the floor, impeding the speaker from attending a meeting and extreme confrontations are thoughtless acts that waste taxpayers’ money. We would like to see the lawmakers get involved in serious discussions toward finding creative plans. I would like to see the lawmakers compete to draft more consumer-friendly policies.
If politics were still limited to the interests of the political parties even when the Assembly got new members, we couldn’t hope for anything better in four years.
The newly elected lawmakers need to prove my worries about the morning after the elections are groundless.
*The writer is the dean of the Ewha Womans University Graduate School of International Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi Byung-il