Time for fundamental changeThe year 2011 - which ended with the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il - appears to foreshadow what will happen next year. The year 2012 will be marked by dazzling leadership changes in the world. Korea holds legislative elections in April and presidential elections in December. Major powers involved in Korean affairs are no exception. The United States and Russia hold presidential elections, and the whole world will see new leadership in China led by Xi Jinping, now vice president, following Hu Jintao. In the meantime, North Korea will declare a new era of a “powerful and prosperous nation,” when it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il Sung in April.
Such leadership change worldwide will mostly likely put the Korean Peninsula in peril. Considering current situations in Northeast Asia, we can hardly expect a radical change in a short period of time as talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons will probably be accelerated by Washington and Pyongyang. In that process, our government must pursue forward-looking policies to give more support to the moderates of Pyongyang’s new leadership in close cooperation with the U.S. and China.
Our internal and external economic environment is very precarious. A dark cloud hangs over Europe due to an unprecedented fiscal crisis without any feasible solutions on the horizon. Besides, not only America, China and Japan, but also India, Russia and Brazil are losing economic steam for further growth. That gives our economy a stern message that we must be thoroughly prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Still, a mountain of tasks are awaiting us next year. The year 2011 was the one which demonstrated how big a surgery is needed to revamp existing systems, as evidenced by the Oct. 26 Seoul mayoral by-election when voters chose a lawyer-turned-civic activist instead of a leading member of the ruling Grand National Party to express their deep distrust of the establishment. The “Ahn Cheol-soo phenomenon” was an outcome of people’s aspiration for a totally new political leadership.
However, our people were most concerned about their ever-tougher lives resulting from ever-widening economic polarization. Koreans demand an overhaul of the “growth first” policy - the pillar of our economic policy since the Park Chung Hee era. It clearly shows the limit of our economic model. The government must seek a fundamental change in its role in the economy and other aspects of our society.