Lessons from America

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Lessons from America

My three years as a correspondent in New York have been short, but in that time, I have seen many faces. On one end was the angry face of a rough-speaking Donald Trump, and on the other was that of a black woman who was so afraid of Trump’s possible victory that she could not even speak. Her frightened face was hard to forget. One black writer told me that they have embedded fear that their children may be taken away. The racial discrimination is not limited to black people. Many Asian-Americans, including Koreans, feel increasing racial discrimination.

Over the past three years, division and confrontation in American society have worsened. I am not the only one surprised by the large number of far-right voters in America. After all, Trump is at the helm now.

The country has changed drastically since the 9/11 terror attacks and financial crisis. But Koreans still have a tendency to see what we want to see. When Trump is filling his cabinet hawks and trade protectionists, some Korean officials say Korea will not be a direct target. That view is nothing but convenient optimism stemming from naivety and ignorance. How should Seoul respond if Trump bills us more for our alliance and escalates trade pressure?

What I really wanted to investigate during my time in New York was the secret to recovery in the U.S. economy. Bold quantitative easing worked, but that’s not all. The simple flow defined in economics textbooks — more money in the market boosting spending and production and leading to employment — is not so easy in other countries.

The obvious difference is the market economy’s dynamics. The United States has more active corporate activity, start-ups, IPOs and M&As than any other country in the world, so innovative energy in the economic ecosystem is constantly stimulated. Nevertheless, Nobel Prize-winning economist Prof. Edmund Phelps said two years ago that innovation in the United States is not as active as in the early 20th century. Other countries, though, envy America’s innovation-oriented culture.

Korean-American businessmen in Korea say that bureaucracy and regulations hinder Korea’s innovation. The problem is that the will to pursue deregulation and end bureaucracy has subsided already. Now is not the time to be content in our accomplishments of the past. We desperately need to revive the flames of innovation.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 14, Page 26


*The author is the New York correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.

LEE SANG-RYEOL

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