[Viewpoint] Waiting in dinersAfter the financial meltdown, restaurants sprang up like mushrooms in almost every neighborhood. They were run by people whose companies had closed or who had lost their jobs due to corporate restructuring.
Restaurants are the type of business that people with no means of support often rush into, even though they might not know anything about the food industry. The typical clients for these restaurants are limited to town people, such as families who dine out on the weekend or customers who drop by in the evening on their way home.
The customers may visit these restaurant out of curiosity when they first open, but the can quickly lose interest if the menus have no special characteristics.
Eventually, as the number of customers decreases, the restaurants are forced to operate under fierce competition.
The major change at this point is usually a radical overhaul of the menu options. As competition becomes fiercer, different dishes appear. So of course, there is nothing to choose from among restaurants that deal with similar food items. No matter how generous customers are, no one will become interested if the menu is the same as everywhere else.
That’s when we see restaurants gradually collapse. One or two begin to close their doors, others follow and they are soon replaced by other restaurants opening for business with their new menus. And so the cycle continues.
It is not easy for restaurants to avoid their fates. A vicious cycle of business closures and openings will continue until an appropriate number of restaurants remain, and the less competitive ones close.
This is where Korea’s service industry stands after the financial crisis.
The government insists that the service sector should be further strengthened to facilitate the growth of the national economy and create more job opportunities. The primary tasks for running the national economy next year are to boost the service industry and thus create more job opportunities.
Korea is ranked first among OECD member countries in terms of the ratio of the manufacturing business to the gross domestic product. However, we stand at the bottom of the service industry.
Amid an atmosphere where the effects of employment by the manufacturing industry have slowed, we duly understand that the government should be devoted to facilitating the development of the service industry with larger job creation plans.
However, the service industry the government intends to embark on may not be the self-operated service industry.
This is because, no matter how hard we try to build this field, which is well known for having low productivity and less competition, the social costs will be high and the loss of jobs can be felt more acutely.
In fact, the areas that the government has been eyeing are high value-added service industries, including medicine, law, education and tourism. It has unveiled a myriad of measures focusing on the advancement of the service industry. However, it seems that almost nothing has been properly implemented. Although the advancement of the service industry is an item of long standing that appears every time the issue of growth or employment is raised, it is pie in the sky that will never be served for diner. If restaurants in the neighborhood treat a guest unkindly, they are likely to cease to exist. However, the government sticks to the same measures, which is such a great pity.
This is because, if the Ministry of Strategy and Finance sets the table, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and other interest groups will continue to overturn the table. The same may be said in cases that have raised issues of the incorporation of medical corporations, the opening of the educational or legal services markets and deregulation measures for penetrating new markets.
When President Lee Myung-bak asked the Grand National Party to cooperate in passing laws on the deregulation of the service industry, it was not the major culprit behind the failure. The point is that ministers turn their backs on each other and insist on different opinions.
It is time the government clarified their obscure ideas in a clear manner. It is time to set the table or take some food items, which will never be served, off the menu board. If ministers fail to reach an agreement, the president should stand at the forefront of arranging transportation.
We are too tired to wait to be served with the same food off the same menu board.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo