Learn from the mistakes
The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.
According to a Korean saying, the three biggest lies are a maiden claiming she does not want to marry, an elderly person wishing for death and a merchant complaining that they don’t make much money.
But the old adage may have some truths in today’s world. A government survey shows that only 3 percent of unmarried women residing in Seoul think marriage is a must. Only 6 percent believe having a child is necessary. They think a baby is better not born when they cannot be guaranteed happiness in today’s society. If they cannot provide a good life in the future, they best not have children.
The young are actually being realistic. They must have jobs to get married and start a family, but jobs have become rare. Jobs added in February mostly went to those aged 60 or older. The additions rose more significantly for those aged above 65. Among the young, one out of four is without a job. The job data backs government-led inflation in numbers through tax spending. Those who contributed to getting President Moon Jae-in elected are rewarded with comfortable executive jobs in public institutions and profitable state projects.
The government maintains the economy is on a solid recovery track and the number of employed on a sharp upswing. Even taking into account demographic factors to job reductions, it raises questions over whether the president and his administration are aware of the pains of self-employed people who are struggle to sustain money-losing businesses. They cannot blame the conservative media for maliciously representing the economy to the public.
Former President Roh Moo-hyun in his third year in office had his senior aides read and discuss the book “Why People Don’t Trust Government,” written by Harvard University professors including Joseph Nye. The scholars claimed Americans distrust the government more than decades ago not because of the worsened economic performance and international climate, but more from an interacting blend of cultural and political conflict stirred by increasingly corrosive news media. Since then, the Blue House has targeted the media as easy scapegoats for the soured public sentiment.
These harsh realities have made young people shun marriage and lose confidence in the government. It is frustrating to see the administration choosing to turn a blind eye to the imminent problems.
Self-realization is pivotal even if it does not guarantee improvement. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has placed the economy as his top priority after winning a second chance to govern. His first term was the opposite. He was not as rightist as he is now. In his summit talks with Roh, he claimed Tokyo should be able to say “No” to the United States.
He paid less attention to the economy and had to surrender the ruling power a year later. In his second term, Abe became entirely different. He went all-out to build Japan again. He admitted to the lessons and failures learned from his first term. The people will turn their back if the economy does not pick up. It would be insolent to demand support from the people without deserving it.
Abe learned to leave politics out of the economy from his first failure. That is the only way the economy can normalize. Political factors must be eliminated from polices on the nuclear phase-out policy, fine dust and income-led growth. If the ruling power cannot do that, they might as well admit that they merely follow ideological principles. That would save political disgust and mistrust at least. There can be lessons learned from Abe.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 22, Page 30