[Viewpoint] The country needs its wise leader

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[Viewpoint] The country needs its wise leader

A society’s wealth lies in its human resources. Greatly talented people would naturally add to the riches. Because of their rarity, great leaders engage such people regardless of their background.

Emperor Taizhong of the Tang Dynasty was an exemplary leader who knew the value of talent. Few original followers were among those who filled his cabinet.

Most of his cabinet members came from his rival’s camp. His eye to ascertain their talent and his courage to embrace their past made Taizhong build one of the golden ages of China’s history ?? the “Reign of Zhen Guan.”

The most valuable talent in the modern free-market economy is entrepreneurship. As social development is driven by economic growth, the innovations of entrepreneurs form the very engine propelling growth.

Entrepreneurs see and capitalize on possibilities unlike ordinary people. They start up businesses and create jobs. They help broaden the social sphere and establish new boundaries. What makes one an entrepreneur is whether he or she is willing to seek and cope with risk.

Most people want to avoid risk. They prefer regular paying jobs rather than starting their own business. Younger people these days exceedingly fear taking chances when choosing a job or workplace. Herding and migration to certain safe jobs is not a good harbinger of what’s to come.

An entrepreneur does not run away from risk. He stares it down. Thanks to these risk-takers, society develops and more people can work.

But our society no longer sees legendary business founders like Lee Byung-chull and Chung Ju-young or business groups as mighty as Samsung or LG.

Entrepreneurs are more commonly born and not made. They show vision, radicalism, perseverance and adaptability. These gifts are innate rather than cultivated.

These types of visionaries are therefore hard to come by, and great ones even less so. A society must appreciate extraordinary entrepreneurs and encourage them to extend our horizons.

Our culture, unfortunately, is not so appreciative.

So-called jaebeol have been labeled by some as social evils and their creators chastised regardless of their economic contribution. They have become targets of social admonishment under President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration.

The Roh government staged attacks on the privileged, wealthy minority to win over the opinion of the less-fortunate. But resentment of entrepreneurs leads to economic stagnation and social insecurity.

Some are recommending a pardon for former Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was given a three-year suspended sentence on charges of financial wrongdoing and tax evasion. They argue Lee’s expertise and connections are imperative to lead the campaign to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Hosting the Olympic Games is important. For that purpose alone, an acquittal for Lee is strongly justified.

However, there are even greater reasons why Lee should be pardoned.

The Samsung Group has long been our economy’s flagship. The corporate name had been our pride and comfort in even the toughest times. Lee had been the ship’s captain, helping to steer the entire economy. He awakened the country when it indulged in comfort, pointing out that we must worry about how we will live down the road.

Samsung Group competes in the global corporate race as a top-tier company, and maintaining that position is almost as difficult as starting afresh. Under Lee’s leadership, the group has prospered. We all have.

His sentence offers society no benefit. Samsung sailed along fine even in his absence. But we cannot imagine the ship venturing into a new path without him at the helm. The waves in the global sea have increasingly turned menacing, and the ship needs its experienced captain to lead the way.

*The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Bok Koh-ill
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