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[Opinion] Anti-Corporate Sentiment

Posted October. 27, 2006 06:59,   


An Indian reporter asked two weeks ago when we met overseas, “South Korea did not just develop, it skyrocketed. You must have seen the process while you were growing up.” I pondered on how to answer him, then gave the instance of automobiles. “In the 1960s, students in rural areas rushed out to take a glimpse when there was a car strolling by. But today South Korea is one of the world’s five largest automobile producers in the world.”

Foreigners visiting Korea in the late 19th Century recorded the backward industrial situation, saying, “The people barter in markets, and no mass-scale distribution exists to channel industrial products.” Business was backward because the society was based on the Confucian idea that emphasized academics and agriculture over business and craft, leading to the establishment of anti-market and anti-business policies.

The backward ‘Hermit Country’ South Korea was boosted to an economic power that ranks 11th worldwide in large part to the pioneering role of companies and entrepreneurs. But it is ironic that research indicates the South Korea has a more biased perception towards business and wealth even when compared to a socialist country such as China. Is it because of a misguided sense of equality?

According to the ‘Market Economy Analysis on Broadcast News’, researched jointly by Economics Professor Ahn Jae-wook of Kyunghee University, among others, anti-corporatism ranked from MBC>KBS>SBS. The results were interesting that according to the broadcast company’s characteristics based on the anchors and reporters, SBS was more neutral while MBC and KBS had an anti-market quality. Perhaps relevant may be the fact that the labor groups of MBC and KBS are relatively stronger. When considering the influence of the broadcast media to the public, this is a worrying situation.

With the negative public perception towards enterprises, the political authorities will attempt to strengthen its stronghold on companies. With more restrictions comes less maneuvering space for companies and higher production costs. Companies will move overseas in search of better conditions. Labor rights organizations will act aggressively in light of the negative public perception towards companies and justify their extreme requests. Companies would like to see more news in MBC and KBS that will encourage them to conduct business domestically. It should be so, not because of any favor towards entrepreneurs, but for the Korean economy.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com