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[Editorial] Korea, Let’s Have Self-Respect

Posted December. 31, 2005 06:17,   


With the upcoming New Year approaching, I think about the Republic of Korea’s place in the world. Currently, Korea is a middle global economic power with a domestic gross product ranking somewhere around 10th place. Korea also has achieved modernization and democratization simultaneously. However, it has been only 40 years since the majority of Koreans could have three meals a day.

We should remember the blood and toil the industrialization generation shed in order to escape from absolute poverty. In addition, it is difficult to even imagine today’s prosperity without the help of allied countries who saved us from the threat of communism, including the U.S. in particular. If we are oblivious of the senior generation and our debt to the international community, and run opposite to the world’s trend with continuous domestic disorder and international failures, who knows when we might collapse again?

In the past, the monarchy’s leadership was incompetent and national power weak, so we lost our country to the Japanese and ended up with a Korean Peninsula divided in the middle. No matter how much we chant “Between Koreas,” without the trust and cooperation of neighboring world powers, unification cannot be guaranteed.

All the countries in the world are running toward the future on the two wheels of competition and cooperation. Nations are engaged in endless competition to fulfill prosperity, peace, economic and security interests, but also in developing multinational cooperation systems in various ways. The answer to whether or not Korea is making the leap to become a developed nation, or stumbling right at the doors, lies in the world. Without seeing the complex structure of international competition and cooperation, and drifting in the global tide by concentrating on zero-sum games of power and wealth among Koreans, it is plainly hopeless. It will not only mean a regression for the contemporary generation, but will also be committing a sin for the later generation, which will bear the debt. Already, the stagnation of the past three years has made Korea into a country that cannot depend on the past to continue prospering any more.

The government and research institutes estimate Korea’s reasonable economic growth capability (potential growth rate) at somewhere between 4.8 to 5.0 percent. Nevertheless, during the first year of President Roh Moo-myun’s administration, it was 3.1 percent, 4.6 percent in the second year, and 3.8 percent in the third, failing to reach the estimated figures. The gap with rapidly growing competing countries is even wider. In the middle of such low-growth, no matter how much emphasis is put on distribution, the lives of ordinary people will not improve. The widening polarization of economic classes just proves this. Hitting on the wealthy and large corporations might temporarily satisfy the envy of low-income, mid-income, small and mid-sized businesses, but it cannot solve polarization. By driving the majority of the people to abominate the few large corporations and the wealthy, the government might temporarily earn political gain, but the possibility of economic redistribution only grows smaller. In the end, national divisions and social conflict will only grow deeper.

It is Impossible to Save the Economy By Opposing Market Principles—

Usually, big corporations that earn large amounts of money abroad are winners that have beaten world-class competition through endless endeavors. Release them from regulatory chains such as limiting the total amount of investment on subsidiary companies and limiting companies from investing in certain industries and restricting land use. Leading companies will invest in Korea more actively. Then one can expect the revitalization of domestic investment that can match up to foreign investment. It is difficult to achieve economic growth and wealth redistribution without investments and without an increase in domestic consumption. Create an environment that will allow the wealthy to spend their money in Korea, instead of just choking them with taxes and jealousy. Greatly loosen regulations on entering the service sector and their operations, and let the quality of service diversify. Consumption taking place abroad will decrease, and more money will be used domestically, hence increasing employment. These things are called market principles.

Despite this, the government and ruling party, instead of persuading the people to adhere to market principles, excessively issue policies that forcefully bend the mechanisms of market principles and money flow. It is shallow populism that aims at gaining the approval of the weak by attacking the strong. Such policies only lower national competitive power, and make the lives of low and mid-income households more difficult. Only countries and people that consider competition as something natural, and strive to become more competent, can win in the global competition. National wealth should be increased through competition and this will lead to support and strengthened protection to the vulnerable classes. Wise people are not fooled by populist politics, and strongly reject it, that being their path to self-salvation.

Populism in education should also be objected to. The Roh regime, on the same foot with the Korean Teachers and Educational Worker`s Union, pursues equal education, but equality is not achieved by that. Even though they view competition as a sin, consumed by an outdated leftist ideology, there cannot be competition in education. China, a socialist country, is competitively increasing its education level more than we Koreans are. That is because education will ultimately open the future for the nation and individuals. If the majority of Koreans consider globalization as a sin the way the teachers’ union does, and teachers and students support no-competition, this is the shortcut to withering national power. It is very likely that students and parents who believe in the teachers’ union claims will become the biggest victims.

Firmly Stand Up to Those Shaking the Legitimacy of Korea—

We should firmly deal with forces that shake the national legitimacy of Korea by branding it as “a wrongfully founded shameful country.” What is left if many Koreans are brainwashed by them and throw away their national pride? How will we be treated by the world if the Korean people do not have self-respect, and how will we make a better future? The senior generation of the development era achieved the “Miracle of the Han River,” but also committed many undemocratic, inhumane mistakes. However, no matter how big the mistakes, one cannot say that they are a bigger sin than North Korea’s leadership group that forces 23 million North Koreans into starvation and slavish lives.

This year, we should put an end to social divisions and ruptures regarding national legitimacy, and once again set up the foundation of the nation. Koreans that love Korea and want to find hope in Korea should help out and join such efforts.

The Roh Moo-hyun administration wasted three years with politics of division. If it does not renounce “leadership of enmity” in its fourth year, the Korean people will ignore it, and will have no choice but to pioneer their future and the nation’s path on their own. Of course, they will not completely give up hope on the Roh Moo-hyun regime. Since it has collected many “war trophies of rule” during the past three years, in the remaining two years, it should follow hopes of the absolute majority of Koreans. It should not confuse the Korean people with demagogue politics lacking results. It should rapidly and correctly read global changes and challenges, offer visions and measures that can effectively deal with such situations, and show leadership that unites the whole country heading for a better future. There is not much time. We expect for the Grand National Party and other opposition parties to provide alternative possibilities and actions.

The year 2006 should be a year that Korea breaks the 20th Century ideological framework and visualizes the 21st Century paradigm. Outdated conservatism and obstinate leftists should be sent together to the museum of history. Dong-A Ilbo will stand against those forces shaking the Korean system until the end. It will be faithful, playing the role of free democracy and market economy protector. We plan to fulfill our role as a newspaper that stands by the side of Koreans who cherish their country and pursue happiness in it.