Uncharted waters aheadLegislative elections are one of the pillars of a representative democracy. But they can be messy. The campaign trail leading up to the April 13 general election to choose the 20th National Assembly was as messy as we’ve ever seen. The outcome, nevertheless, was straightforward. It delivered a stern message of disapproval to the government and conservative ruling party, and a more encouraging and hopeful message to the two leading liberal parties.
Democracy is not perfect. It is “the worst form of government, except for all others that have been tried from time to time,” as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said. The government and political circles must humbly respect the verdict of the people in the election and reflect their opinion in state affairs.
The government and Saenuri Party, first of all, must demonstrate leadership based on communication and dialogue with the people to get through unfavorable political conditions in which the liberals now have a majority in the assembly. It must inevitably regard the liberals as its partner in national governance. The president, government and liberal party leaders must pursue much more dialogue through formal and informal channels. Before that, the president and leadership of the Saenuri Party must coordinate their agenda and policy execution through various communication channels.
The connection between the government and the people is always important, but even more so when rival sides control the legislature. The government can only get cooperation from the assembly when it has the support of the people. The president and cabinet members must make the most of the media through frequent press conferences and conversation with senior journalists, including editorial writers, to stay in tune with public opinion and speak about important policies.
The government must actively engage state-funded think tanks in communicating with the people. Those institutions can explain the details — and necessity — of government policies to help persuade the public. The more complicated and difficult the policies are — like economic reforms — the more work the government must put in to explain them to the people.
The Minjoo Party of Korea and People’s Party must play a mature and responsible role as partners with the government and Saenuri Party in running the country. The Minjoo Party had pledged to focus on reviving the economy throughout the election campaign. Instead of mere rhetoric, it must recommend detailed plans. It must present its alternatives to the government’s four reforms of the public sector, finance, labor and education.
The Minjoo Party’s campaign pledge to establish a branch of the Assembly in the administrative municipality of Sejong could help raise administrative efficiency and build trust between the government and legislature.
The People’s Party must always remember that it was made the third largest party to bring balance and reason to the legislature. Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the party, must keep true to his words that his party will make the legislature serve the people.
Ahn, who founded a technology company, should know the importance of the ongoing evolution towards the fourth industrial revolution and what policies are needed to keep Korea abreast of the times. His party could help pave the way for the fourth industrial revolution through reforms in industry, science, technology, education and labor.
International rating agencies and investment banks predict that the election results, which put the liberals in the majority, could bode badly for Korea’s sovereign credit rating. The liberal parties must prove them wrong.
The world economy is sailing in unchartered waters and on choppy seas while the local economy is feared to be headed for a structural slowdown. The Chinese economy, which helped sustain growth in the global economy, is losing steam fast. The U.S. central bank is poised to raise interest rates while its counterparts in Japan and Europe are going in the exact opposite direction with negative interest rates and quantitative easing programs, which merely adds volatility and uncertainty to the international foreign exchange and financial markets. Meanwhile, competition among companies, regions and governments to get ahead in the race towards the new industrial evolution is getting more intense.
The government and ruling party must show strong and reliable leadership, and the liberals must play an active role to ensure confidence in local and foreign companies and investors during such times of uncertainty.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 20, Page 28
*The author, a former finance minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo.