Time to get back to business

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Time to get back to business

More than 40 days have passed since the Sewol ferry sank off the southern coast on April 16. The country is still feeling a collective numbness and lethargy after the guilt and rage because of the deaths of hundreds of students due to the disastrous operation of the ferry, evacuation and rescue mission. The government, labeled corrupt and inept, is keeping a low profile and does not dare to return to its usual business. Companies are refraining from aggressive investments, marketing and promotions lest they upset the sensitive society. Economic activities as a result remain subdued to stay in line with the overall depressed tone. The country has been at a standstill for more than a month and we must never forget the pain and loss. But it is time we end the state of mourning to reactivate the economy and administer changes from lessons learned in the Sewol disaster.

The search for missing bodies, salvaging of the sunken ship, investigation into the cause of the accident and relief and damages for victims and families must go on uninterrupted. Those accountable both directly and indirectly for the disaster must be chased down and made to pay for the loss of so many young lives. But the rest of the population - particularly the government - will have to start going about its business. If all of society is overly engrossed in Sewol bereavement, we may be headed for another crisis.

The tragedy has already taken a toll on consumer and corporate spending. Small retailers and businesses have been hit with a sharp fall in revenue. According to a survey by the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business, 77.8 percent of small-sized businesses reported an average revenue drop of 37.2 percent in the wake of the Sewol disaster. What they urgently need is a recovery of consumption, production, and investment more than emergency financial and tax aid. If the lethargic mood translates into a slowdown, the economy won’t achieve its growth and employment target for this year and cannot guarantee a pickup in the next. The work cannot be entirely promoted by the government alone. It can only be possible when everyone returns to their normal activities.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 26, Page 30

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