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[Editorial] Business-Friendly Uri Party?

Posted March. 21, 2006 03:12,   


Yesterday, the Uri Party leadership had its first policy meeting with the heads of four Korean business organizations, its first in ages. After listening to the suggestions of the business leaders, the ruling party announced, “After positively reviewing suggestions to revive investment, we will pursue their legislation suggestions.”

The meeting was the first between the two in 19 months (nearly longer than the time between meetings with North Korea’s regime). Their last meeting on August 18, 2004 was hostile. When business leaders expressed their concerns against anti-corporation sentiment, Uri Party Representative Kim Hee-sun pressured them, saying, “Earning lots of money is something to be respected, but that is not happening. The rich should contribute.” When they requested the loosening of regulations such as shareholding restriction limits, lawmaker Kang Bong-kyung said, “Try persuading civic groups first.”

There is nothing wrong with the ruling party suddenly becoming friendly to business community, but I wonder whether it is doing so because the regional elections are about 70 days away.

The business community itself is skeptical about the true intentions of the ruling party. Their skepticism is understandable considering that the ruling party viewed them as a subject of reform, or worse. There have been stories that those in the business circle felt a thick wall separated them from 386-generation lawmakers who “don’t know how the world turns,” and that some even felt doubts about doing business in Korea.

It was also the ruling party that spearheaded the recent wave of corporation bashing, including Samsung, around the time of last year’s national audits. Even the president emphasized the social responsibility of corporations. And the Federation of Korean Industries, which stayed low and avoided criticizing the government, announced an unprecedented warning in October of last year, saying, “Critical sentiment toward large corporations is spreading so much that it might lead to reduced corporate activities and the decline of brand values.”

If Uri Party has truly changed its attitude toward corporations, then it should place importance on the roles of businessmen and find ways to revive investment to create jobs in the business perspective. But if they are being temporarily warm just to receive votes, it would be repulsive. Creating good conditions for business is not corporate privilege. It is critical to the survival of the Korean people.