Posted January. 01, 2009 07:03,
A new year has begun. The entire world is at a crossroads in 2009 between overcoming the economic crisis and falling further into a quagmire. Though the Korean economy is not suffering from an accurate illness seen in the 1997 Asian financial crisis, it is certainly not under favorable conditions. When the economy was hit by the crisis 11 years ago, it was relatively easy to receive emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund since only a certain number of Asian countries were undergoing hardship. A boom in the global economy also helped Asian countries overcome the economic turmoil. Sound national finance was also a key factor that helped cure the ailing financial industry.
With economic woes spreading fast all around the globe in both the financial and real economies, Koreas major export markets such as the United States, China and the European Union are also witnessing a deepening economic slump. Korea posted a double-digit decrease in exports over the same period last year. Given that the size of the domestic market is small, the country cannot overcome the economic crisis unless exports pick up.
More worrisome is that Korea can be the biggest victim of a possible contraction in global trade that occur due to stronger U.S. protectionism. It is also frustrating to see a strong opposition from the two countries lawmakers against the ratification of the bilateral free trade agreement, which is sure to be of assistance in overcoming the crisis. It is also important that Korean quickly conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union.
The Korean government`s role is growing increasingly important given the economic crisis. Like other world major economies, Korea also needs dramatic stimulus packages and restructuring. There is no cure-all to create enough jobs while saving all existing businesses and jobs at the same time. Only when state-run and privately owned companies induce rational restructuring in areas with lax management and inefficiency can jobs can be created and competitiveness can be enhanced. According to market principles, the number of jobs increases when companies are allowed to weed out unqualified staff, since it opens up new opportunities to others and makes the job market more flexible.
The number of new jobs will likely fall far short of expectations in the New Year. It is imperative that both management and labor make concessions and weave wisdom together to endure hardships by choosing pay cuts rather than a layoff and sharing jobs.
If the government, politicians and businesses closely cooperate and put their heads together in order to revive the economy and solve the economic hardships of the people, nothing will be impossible. Koreans inherited genes that help them excel in overcoming difficult times. Korea is one of the few countries that have become an industrialized nation based on democracy in just a half century, rising from the ruins of war. Koreans are the ones who have achieved this feat.
Korea must strengthen their social safety net and policies that look after people who are not only ready to face globalization and fierce competition. In the process, however, tension could arise between the haves and have-nots, regular and temporary workers, and large and small companies over the distribution of financial resources and polices. It is important to note that policies that punish big business and the rich for the sake of helping the weak will rather hamper economic growth and cause greater pain to the low-income class.
The Lee Myung-bak administration should clearly explain what it will do to promote national interests and improve the livelihood of the people and understanding. President Lee should also show strong leadership and not hesitate to communicate and embrace his opponents. Only then will more people join in efforts to overcome the economic crisis.
Countries are amassing national potential as much as possible to resolve the economic crisis. Despite this, certain Korean politicians and activists are scattering national strength that should be devoted to economic revival. To those who agitate the Korean people based on groundless accusations and illegal and violent demonstrations, the government must show respect for the law.
2009 should become the year of Korean restructuring, during which the country overcomes the economic crisis and normalizes society. There is no sillier thing than fears due to differences in economice difficulty. Depending on action, Korea could join the ranks of advanced nations earlier than planned or remain as a developing country forever. Korea must invest in education that cultivates people of talent and science and technology that will produce a future growth engine even more actively than it did over the economic boom.
Korea should more aggressively invest in its future growth drivers, such as IT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and alternative energy. The four-river redevelopment project should also eventually become an investment for a better future.
Withdrawing is not the only solution to overcome hardship. With the proper political leadership that makes the people unite and join the efforts, Korea can move forward no matter how strong the wind or waves are. Let us pull the boat together with strong determination and have the best hope for the New Year.
Roll up our sleeves once more to make an advanced Korea. The more fearful the future is, the tighter Koreans should hold another staff`s hand.