Government must not feign innocence
It must have begun innocently. That’s what they believe. Savvy consumers acted quickly and took full advantage of the subsidies, while less knowledgeable shoppers paid what they were asked.
Some got smartphones for free, while others paid the full retail price of 1 million won ($950). It is so unfair. The good-hearted government would not allow this. The Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act pursues justice. There should be no discrimination based on whether a consumer is clever or slow. Everyone gets the same subsidies. Now, it is supposed to be fair and no one should complain. But that’s not how it works. Most customers now have to pay more for mobile devices, the consequence of eliminating competition in the market. Now, every customer is a pushover.
The Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act controversy is supported by bureaucrats who firmly believe that the government should control the private sector. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Korea Communication Commission pressured lawmakers to pass the law. The bureaucrats believe they are bringing justice, but it is the origin of all trouble. They think that they are superior to the citizens and are obsessed with the conviction that they need to educate and lead consumers. Their decisions and judgments are based on their consideration for the people. They believe that it is their duty to create a law to prevent excessive spending on communication devices.
Moreover, they are loyal to the president, whose campaign promises include cutting household communication charges. The boss made the promise, so her followers must find a way to keep it, no matter what. They are arrogant and delusional to believe that the government can suppress the private sector. That’s how the irrational idea of restricting subsidies came about. This overreaching idea led to a threat. Choi Yang-hee, the minister of science, called the CEOs of telecommunication service providers and mobile device makers together and declared that the government had to consider extreme measures if they wanted to use the law for their own corporate interests. It hasn’t evolved a bit from the dictatorial rules of the past, when the government pressured businesses.
Of course, the bureaucrats say they have been wrongfully accused. They argue that they were only working for the national interest, not their own. Then, they must change their mind set. What is the role of the government? Should the government intervene in every situation? How is “excessive spending on communication” defined? And who are they to educate the citizens?
The introduction of the Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act only added the club of “subsidy restriction” on the existing stick of a billing plan approval system. The authorities only beefed up their regulatory power. Price competition and subsidy competition have disappeared from the market. With no competition in the market, consumers are left with a heavier burden, and most of the gain went to the service providers. The price is neither good nor bad. It is mere information. What’s evil is fixing and influencing price, as it deceives the market as well as consumers. The government must not feign righteousness and innocence. Their involvement has only harmed consumers.
*The author is a business and industry news editor of the JoongAng Sunday. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 27, Page 30
By KIM JONG-YOON