[Outlook]Coming together on jobs

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[Outlook]Coming together on jobs

At 2:20 p.m. on Dec. 24, 1997, in an editorial meeting of the KBS news bureau, an idea on how to overcome the foreign exchange crisis was presented. An economic news reporter said that if households were encouraged to donate gold rings that they had kept in their drawers, not many would participate in the campaign.

He suggested instead that the state could buy gold items from the people and sell them on the international gold market. The people would then be able to sell gold that they hadn’t used for a long time at a high price, and the country would be able to get easy access to U.S. dollars, helping resolve the crisis.

Everybody was optimistic about the campaign, thinking that it would benefit both the people and the country.

As the head of the news bureau, I decided to air a special report about the patriotic gold collecting campaign on the nine o’clock news on Christmas Day.

When the report was aired for the first time, it was met with much stronger enthusiasm than expected. Many people across the country called the newsroom and asked where they could sell their gold. The people were trying to find a way to escape from the crisis, and the gold-collecting campaign showed them one, sparking the power of cooperation that had lain dormant until then.

For 60 days until Feb. 24, 1998, special reports about the campaign were aired every day without exception. On the nine o’clock news alone, as many as 67 news reports about the campaign were aired.

A total 1.984 million people participated in the campaign and 136 tons of gold were collected.

It was exported for $1.1 billion, creating a good starting point for getting out of the financial crisis.

But apart from the economic effect, we earned something more valuable. Despite cold weather, crowds flocked to collection windows with their gold that had been kept squirreled away, all with a common objective - to help the country’s economy recover. Korean cohesive power and potential astonished the world.

At 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2009, on KBS I radio, an American guest commentator, John Linton, said in fluent Korean that he was excited when the gold collecting campaign startled the world 10 years ago. He added, however, that it is very sad to see the news about violence in Korea’s National Assembly being reported worldwide.

The current economic crisis is much more serious than the financial crisis that hit the country a decade ago. It is not a simple situation that can be overcome with a gold collecting campaign, and there seems to be no end in sight. Countless countries around the world, including the United States, are suffering from unemployment rates that are the worst in decades. In Japan, some companies are trying to share jobs in a bid to provide more people with employment, even if that means lower wages for everyone.

The Lee Myung-bak administration is working hard to create 70,000 internship posts for young people, including 10,000 jobs abroad (5,000 of which are in the U.S.), 30,000 in the public sector and 25,000 in private companies.

However, the unemployment issue of today can’t be resolved only through efforts by the government. There are also limits to companies’ attempts at increasing investment and employment.

Now, a campaign is needed to bring the people together and inspire them to work together.

I would like to suggest a campaign to help people find jobs. All businesses, from conglomerates to smaller companies and self-employed entrepreneurs, should increase jobs instead of cutting them.

The media must work on the front line to help people find jobs, offering information about those providing or needing employment.

The other day, three Internet protocol television firms agreed to launch a channel specializing in employment news. They also agreed to develop a program to connect companies that want to hire people with people looking for jobs using interactive IPTV services. In this way, the labor market for professionals will become more transparent and smaller businesses and entrepreneurs will be able to run job advertisements for free.

All types of TV stations, such as national networks, cable TV channels, satellite channels and IPTV channels, as well as newspapers, the more conventional places for news about employment, must participate in the campaign to help people find jobs.

If media outlets do their best to help people out of unemployment, the people will come together once again, creating a driving force we can use to beat these hard times.

This is another opportunity to display the Korean potential that astonished the world 10 years ago.


*The writer is the chairman of the Korea Digital Media Industry Association. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim In-kyu
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