Moon’s book politics

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Moon’s book politics


Yi Jung-jae
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

President Moon Jae-in often referred to books to recruit his aides, but the results have not been that impressive. One reason may be the discrepancy in the ideal and reality. Former President Kim Dae-jung used to say that liberals had “scholarly” social awareness but lacked a merchants’ “practicality.” Examples are Hong Jang-pyo, former senior secretary for economic affairs, Jang Ha-sung, former policy chief, and Kim Hyun-chul, former economic adviser. The three devised the “income-led growth” policy as the economic direction under the Moon administration. The policy outline all came from their books and thesis papers. Hong, the architect of the administration’s income-led growth policy, Jang, the champion of the untested economic experiment, and Kim, the missionary, have all left the Blue House.

The reasons for their exits have all been different, but nevertheless disgraceful. The income-led growth policy has lost steam due to the dismissals of the three key policymakers. The president has shifted his focus to “innovation-led growth.” He has invited a new expert — Lee Jung-dong, a professor of industrial engineering at Seoul National University and the author of the book “Time of Accumulation” — onboard as his special adviser on the economy and science. Lee’s book was what won over the president. As a professor of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program on Technology Management, Economics and Policy (TEMEP) and the Department of Industrial Engineering at the prestigious school, he is an expert on Korea’s industrial problems

His book, “Time of Accumulation,” published in 2017, has a clear message: it emphasizes the importance of accumulating empirical knowledge through trial and error in developing an economy. The trick is “how to accumulate.” He underscores the need for strengthening the economy through numerous failures in business and innovation experiments. During a lunch with the president late last month, he called for infinite tolerance for failures. Moon said he had read the book during his hectic campaign trail and quoted it many times. But the president has also accumulated failures from his scholarly recruitments. Let’s just hope the accumulated failures reap positive results this time.

There is a part in the book devoted to the Protestants in France in the 16th and 17th centuries titled “Huguenot.” They were particularly prolific in textile, trade and craftsmanship, making up the bulk of the reliable work force in France. They were an educated group that trained themselves through trial and error. The Huguenot followers fled France after Louis XIV, in 1685, outlawed Protestantism, sending thousands of Huguenots across Europe to Great Britain, Germanic territories and other European states where they were welcomed.

Soon after their arrival, Switzerland become the powerhouse for precision mechanics, including clocks and watches. In the meantime, France lost half of its working population. Talents can shape the fate of a nation.


President Moon Jae-in, right, talks with his newly appointed advisor for economy and science, Lee Jeong-dong, left, a former professor of industrial engineering and the author of the book “Time of Accumulation,” and others at the Blue House, Jan. 30. [YONHAP]

In his 2011 book “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Lives by the Year 2100,” theoretical physicist Michio Kaku pointed out that more than half of the talents employed in Silicon Valley came from India, Taiwan and other Asian countries. The H-1B visa issued to talents with specialized knowledge and higher degrees has become the secret weapon of U.S. high-tech power, he claimed.

Korea, on the other hand, is losing potential entrepreneurs, future businesses and talents due to heavy regulations, an anti-business environment and little tolerance for failure. Korean self-driving car technology — SNUver — had to start its autonomous delivery commercial service in Silicon Valley due to setbacks back home. Korean fintech businesses traveled to Luxemburg, Hong Kong and Australia to start their services. Blockchain start-ups and experts have left the country for Singapore due to suffocating restrictions on cryptocurrency business in Korea. That’s not all: ride-sharing business remains deadlocked due to opposition from the taxi industry.

Reading an impressive book and handing out 500 copies of it to the Blue House staff is not enough to bring about meaningful change. As he distributed the “Time of Accumulation” to his staff, President Moon wrote in the book, “If we can turn my failures into an experience I can share with others, the success can bring happiness to all.” The question is how many of his wishes will be able to come true.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 14, Page 30
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