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Civic Groups Demand for Reform, an Obstacle to the Market

Civic Groups Demand for Reform, an Obstacle to the Market

Posted October. 06, 2004 21:54,   


“When we compare companies to boats, civic groups can set the direction for the boat, but they must not row the boat. Doing otherwise would be interfering with the management rather than advising it.”

Recently, an argument has been revealed that some civic groups’ activities, claimed to be so-called “corporate reforms,” are instead becoming an obstacle to the free market economy.

Seoul National University Professor of national ethics Park Hyo-jong (pictured) strongly criticized some civic groups’ practices in his presentation titled, “The Coordinate for Free Market Economy and Civic Movements” in a seminar, “Nationwide Advertisers Contest 2004,” which was held on October 6 at Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul.

Professor Park said, “Since the inauguration of the participatory government, no place has been untouched by civic groups which are gaining more power than ever, and there is widespread perception that the rich are criminals,” and analyzed, “Businesses are not only under the market’s pressure, but also under that of civic groups.”

He condemned this situation by saying, “Corporations have asked for this situation to some extent by failing to pursue proper ethic management, but civic groups are acting as ‘picky outside directors’ as opposed to ‘bonafide advisers,’ whose demands have gone beyond that of a reasonable advocate for the market economy. They have become double-faced reformists calling for excessive reform and restriction.”

He also questioned their innocent motives by saying, “Civic groups take the side of minority shareholders when there is a conflict between interests of majority and minority shareholders, but they become ‘strategic supporters of the market economy’ and consistently side with labor unions when it comes to the conflict between workers’ interest and that of the shareholders.”

He also said, “The reformism of civic groups is based on optimism, and it sees the reality of the market with ‘deadly self-conceit,” and went on to stress, “It also overlooked the fact that the state power, which has become enormous with the demand for reform, is becoming an obstacle in facilitating the free market.”

He continued, “Because civic groups only stress democratic management and participatory democracy, they are branding the Korean entrepreneurship as undemocratic powers by viewing the rich in the outdated eyes of the underprivileged.” He further diagnosed the current situation by saying that civic activists are obsessed with “contradictions of capitalism,” not the “failure of the market,” so that they have a distorted perception of the nature of corporations and entrepreneurship, resulting in anti-market reformism.

In addition, he strongly argued, “There may not be a nationality for capitals, but capitalists have nationalities. Those who are truly concerned about employment and income creation of our nation are Korean businesses.”

Jung-Eun Lee lightee@donga.com