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[Op-ed] Help the public regain smile

Posted June. 11, 2014 07:42,   


Smile is hardly seen in Korea. No smile in politics and society, and no smile in the economy and market. The atmosphere is way too formal. Being careful is the wisest thing to do, which has become infectious. Potential prime ministers, government agency heads and chief presidential secretaries are hiding due to fear of being doomed if one finds fault in them. It is early summer but civil servants have gone into hibernation fearing they could be ruined if they don`t behave carefully.

A person travelled to Ulleung Island last month and rarely saw tourists there. Despite the strong travel season, tourists are scarcely seen and island residents must be agonizing over how to earn money to send tuition money to their children who went to study at lands. In cities, the number of daily jobs has decreased. Many daily workers are afraid of being fired anytime. Already, many daily workers are being told not to come to work. People are worried over their immediate future and children education. To the low-income people, great talks of “national reform” are just a shadow of a shade.

There is a collective sentiment and mutual observance among people against drinking, singing and traveling around. This, however, only freezes further the already chilly domestic demand. The biggest hit people of plunging guests in golf courses are game helpers and restaurant employees there. The cause and effect turn round but the economy can`t pick up if the society stiffens and loses vitality. Lower-income people are already burdened with household debt and this is adding insult to their injury.

If the society is gloomy where more people are frowning than smiling and where anger is boiling over, foreign tourists will opt not to come. People who greet foreigners should have a soft mind and be full of smiles, be kind and energetic to attract more foreigners who will be willing to spend more.

Money is there to spend, but in an atmosphere where people have to watch out in spending their money, money will hide or flee. Korean people`s domestic consumption is declining while overseas spending is increasing. Almost every day, many people are on board airplanes to go to China and Southeast Asian countries. Money also flows to these foreign countries.

It would be good for low-income people if money is spent domestically. There are many reasons why money is flowing out of the country. Perhaps in Korea, there are so many people who can`t go to bars and singing rooms and play golf. Those who frequently go abroad and go shopping do this without telling people. Well, they take money with them when going overseas.

The private sector is the one that will vitalize the economy. The government gathers a large amount of taxes but in reality there are not many things the government can do directly for people`s livelihood. Election candidates made pledges to vitalize growth through welfare and acted as if they can rescue people from poverty, but these are just forlorn hopes. The private sector should be given chances to freely invest and manufacture, and people should be able to make consumption without having to read others` countenance for the economy to revive. An atmosphere should be formed where companies cab freely do business and invest, and where people can spend money as they wish within their capabilities. This would lessen burden on low-income people.

Nevertheless, overspending that goes beyond one`s capability will do only harm. This is the same to companies and individuals. Debt has increased too much. One ought to save if loaded with too much debt. Yet one can spend as much as he or she earns, and freely. Money should circulate so that there is balanced wealth distribution between rich and poor.

The economy is losing vitality and it is more difficult to complement growth potential. However, the Korean society is more interested in social and political issues than the economy. Rather than searching for prime minister who can reform the nation or a deputy economic minister who can save the economy, it is more important to boost the public`s economic confidence. No prime minister and deputy minister were able to feed the public. Only half-hearted in vitalizing the economy and markets, the political sector and those engaged in social movement are busy with biting at government personnel appointment. In 2008, the U.S. overcame the subprime mortgage crisis as the nation and its people concentrated on the economy.

The government and the political sector should stop bruising the private economy with intimidating politics and provocative public power. Instead, they should cheer up the public and help people regain smile.