Innovate traditional marketsGovernment efforts to channel funds to revitalize ailing traditional markets has gotten almost nowhere even though a whopping 3.34 trillion won ($3.17 billion) has been poured into them for the past 13 years. The JoongAng Ilbo uncovered countless cases in which people’s tax money has been wasted for unnecessary or suspicious projects.
Moral hazards have reached a serious level, as seen in the idling away of recently installed escalators or in the conversion of community parks into new parking lots even though the traditional markets have enough parking spaces. A bigger problem is that these wasteful acts go unpunished thanks to a lack of proper regulations. We are dumbfounded that the government’s projects aimed at rejuvenating lackluster traditional markets have not been checked by the Board of Audit and Inspection since the projects started in 2002.
If the government wants to achieve its original goal through financial assistance, it must first overhaul its support systems, beginning with its selection process to weigh the feasibility of those projects and check if its funding is at an appropriate level. The government must also keep a close watch on whether the money is spent for the benefit of the markets and local people in a transparent way after the financial aid is doled out. In the process, not only the central government’s civil servants but also local residents and communication officers should look into the effectiveness of the projects from various perspectives to ensure their success. That’s the only way to avoid projects aimed at boasting the government’s achievements and to reduce the waste of people’s tax money.
The attitudes of merchants at markets must also change because people won’t visit if they just upgrade existing facilities or add new ones for convenience rather than creativity. Merchants must create a spectrum of attractive content to encourage their customers to spend more. A full-fledged campaign to resuscitate the moribund markets through ingenious ideas and innovations are needed.
In fact, there are many success stories in which once-depressed markets have become lively again thanks to the efforts of local merchants and residents for the sake of their community. Gagyeong Terminal Market in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, and Jeongnamjin Saturday Market in Jangheung, South Jeolla, are good examples; the first has turned into a space for culture and hobbies for its community members and the latter became a famous market with annual revenue of 100 billion won by specializing in selling Korean beef.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 1, Page 30