Crises can be opportunities

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Crises can be opportunities

With all the turmoil of the presidential election over and the next president elected, the time has come for all citizens to work together and support President-elect Park Geun-hye to become a successful leader. And the president-elect needs to organize the transition committee as soon as possible to establish the direction of state management and specific plans to respond to the nation’s natural anticipation of a new government.

One of the most important tasks for the transition committee is to set priorities among the various promises made during the campaign with full consideration of the financial situation and develop a step-by-step execution plan. The specific plans to be executed in the first few months after the inauguration in February are particularly important.

There are a few things President Park needs to keep in mind while developing state administration plans. Her key promises for national integration, stabilization of common people’s livelihoods, restoration of the middle class, expansion of welfare programs and efforts to improve employment opportunities for young people are only possible on the foundation of employment generation through a boost of the markets and economic growth.

Unfortunately, “growth without employment” is always possible. But “employment without growth” cannot last long. Therefore, employment-friendly growth or job-friendly growth should be the basic objective of the state administration. Various service industries that are effective in creating jobs - such as health care, tourism, education and software development - should be promoted, and the government must prepare friendly environments for business start-ups, especially by the young people.

Moreover, “economic democratization,” which was one of the major promises in the course of the campaign, should be approached by coming up with plans to realize a “fairer society,” where fair competition and equal opportunities are guaranteed. An overhaul of the conglomerates’ ownership structures needs to be tackled at this level as well. Of course, it is needless to say that a lessening of economic polarization and a reinforcement of the social safety net are necessary to get closer to a fairer society.

Also, boosting the greatly undermined growth potential of the Korean economy should be given top priority in the national administration. Widely known measures to nurture growth potential include flexible labor markets, maximum utilization of the available female workforce, regulation reform on the services industry in general, and advancement and transparency in various laws, systems and practices.

However, implementing many of these changes is not easy as they demand a social and political consensus. Therefore, the president-elect should emphasize close cooperation between the National Assembly and politicians and make extra efforts to let citizens know her priorities and the reasons for her policies across the board.

As the priorities are set, the role of Korea’s global leadership should not be overlooked. Today, the world has entered an era of “shared power.” In the new global order, Korea has taken up a vantage point to display leadership through the so-called “bridge diplomacy” of connecting the developed world with the emerging economies. Many developed nations and emerging economies are expecting more active leadership role from Korea.

Moreover, the transition committee needs to prepare a government organizational reshuffle to efficiently carry out key state tasks. The plan should especially address a reorganization proposal to enhance policy mediation functions between government agencies and to promote midterm and long-term state planning. Government administration today requires added communication and collaboration among ministries and agencies, which calls for a reinforcement of policy mediation function.

In addition, midterm and long-term planning should be emphasized to preemptively respond to the fast-changing policy paradigm as a result of rapid technological advancement, globalization and knowledge-based society. Therefore, it is worthwhile for the president-elect to consider appointing a vice prime minister in charge of such crucial policy mediation and planning operations.

As these key tasks are carried out, close cooperation with the incumbent administration is necessary. However, the transitional committee must not have the overbearing attitude of occupation forces intoxicated with their victory. The committee should be operated quietly until its job is done, and it is not desirable for them to get excessive media coverage.

Russian author Leo Tolstoy praised U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as “bigger than his country, bigger than all the presidents together.” But an author of a Lincoln biography pointed out that even a successful president like Lincoln would have remained an ordinary politician if he were not faced with the historic opportunity of America’s national crisis.

It is no exaggeration to say that Korea is in a crisis or emergency in nearly all areas like politics, society, economy, national security and defense. Koreans desperately hope that President-elect Park Geun-hye turns crisis into opportunity for the next five years.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is former finance minister and adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sakong Il
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