[Viewpoint]A time to lead

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[Viewpoint]A time to lead

Shortly after rumors about a September financial crisis in Korea subsided, a financial tsunami from the United States has washed over the nation. There were no expectations that the economy was on its way to recovery, but the Wall Street disaster was still too much to bear.

President Lee Myung-bak had decided to push through aggressive policies after the Chuseok holidays, but he didn’t even get to start his plan. He had wanted to revive the economy and promote the nation’s advancement, but instead he had to spend his time reacting to the U.S. meltdown.

Lee was extremely lucky during the presidential election period, but he appears to be extremely unlucky since assuming office. U.S. financial companies, which are among the most advanced in the world, are collapsing and Lee could only watch.

In fact, the nation has seen hardships at home and abroad since Lee’s inauguration. As if it were planned, disasters came one after another. As soon as he assumed the presidency with a slogan of economic recovery, international oil prices skyrocketed and the world economy took a turn down the road to recession.

The Lee administration is probably responsible for its failed personnel appointments in the early days of the term, but there was nothing it could have done to stop oil price hikes and a global recession.

It is true that the administration failed to smoothly negotiate the resumption of U.S. beef imports, but it was not a serious enough mistake to warrant calls for Lee to step down.

And yet, mad cow rumors fueled candlelight vigils and the government wasted its first six months in office. It has recently regained a grip, but now the financial tsunami has arrived from the United States. Words are probably inadequate to describe how completely the government is out of luck.

Murphy’s Law says, “Whatever can go wrong will only go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.” When I change lanes during a morning traffic jam, the lane that I had been driving in starts to move fast. It will rain when the much anticipated vacation finally arrives. Murphy’s Law perfectly applies to the Lee administration’s predicament.

Whenever it gears up to do something, an unavoidable problem arises. When it wanted to stimulate growth, prices became a major concern. When it tried to control price hikes, foreign exchange rates began to fluctuate radically.

As soon as the mad cow disease rumors subsided, new rumors about the privatization of public companies emerged. Shortly after candlelight vigils disappeared from the streets, the rumors of a September financial crisis began to circulate.

As international oil prices appeared to stabilize, the U.S. financial crisis exploded, and the aftermath directly hit Korean financial markets.

An unfortunate event can be accepted with a grain of salt, but a series of unfortunate events trigger anger. It may feel extremely unfair that the administration will be blamed for everything that has gone wrong, although it was not really responsible.

But the government must not blame its bad luck. Luck has nothing to do with resolving problems. Relying on it only makes the government appear incompetent.

Blaming luck will only prevent policymakers from finding clues to resolve the current problem. The reason for existence of a government is to overcome hardships during the time it is in office. It is not there to take credit when everything goes smoothly. Attitude makes a big difference in how problems are seen and attacked.

Skyrocketing oil prices, a sinking world economy and a financial crisis in the United States are factors that cannot be changed, regardless of luck. It would have been much better if they had not happened, but they did, and nothing can be done about it right now.

The people do not blame the president and the government for such troubles. The people are simply asking for reasonable measures to contain oil prices, avoid recession and ride out the financial crisis.

We cannot hold the government accountable for being unlucky, but we must hold it responsible for failing to take appropriate measures.

The economy will not get better for a while. But we must build a stepping stone for growth and economic recovery in the future. If we fail to do that, we won’t even have the luxury of blaming bad luck.

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

by Kim Jong-soo
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