Reigniting entrepreneurship

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Reigniting entrepreneurship

The government plans to mobilize all available tools - including stimuli policies, wage hikes and deregulation - to try to pull our staggering economy out of its rut. We wonder if that’s enough. The fundamental reason for the lackluster economy can be found somewhere else: the critical loss of entrepreneurship. This is not the time to lament the end of the good old days. It’s time to foster an army of 100,000 start-up entrepreneurs like the late Chung Ju-yung, the legendary founder of Hyundai Group. After that can our economy take a leap forward again.

Nonetheless, our entrepreneurial spirit is not like before. Repercussions from unemployment among our young generation have triggered an alarming level of generational conflict - more serious than in the United States, France and Japan. As a result, the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index, a measurement of the ambition of entrepreneurs as well as the prevalence of start-ups, showed Korea ranked in 32nd place among 120 countries around the world - even lower than Colombia and Oman.

The results of a survey of 1,826 billionaires worldwide showed that 1,191 - nearly two thirds - were self-made men and women. Hereditary billionaires accounted for only 12.6 percent, or 230 people, of all the billionaires in the United States. American self-made billionaires have built wealth by taking uncharted paths in the fields of information and biotechnology, fashion and services. Such examples are thick on the ground as seen in the founders of Uber, an American company that develops, markets and operates a mobile-app-based transportation system, and Airbnb, a website for people who rent out their spare rooms online. Such inventive companies are the driving force behind the remarkable turnaround of the U.S. economy.

A simple comparison of Korea, China and Japan makes the picture clearer. According to a survey by Forbes, 98 percent of Chinese billionaires, including Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, made fortunes on their own, followed by Japan, where 86 percent of the billionaires were self-made. In Korea, they only accounted for approximately 30 percent, including Daum Kakao Chairman Kim Beom-su, with total assets of $2.9 billion.

The Korean economy must find a breakthrough in cultivating an industrial ecosystem in which anyone can kick-start a prospective business without fear of failure. Only then can the Miracle on the Han be repeated.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 10, page 30

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