Former President Kim Young-sam has passed away. He was a pillar of recent Korean history, which achieved both the democratization and industrialization of a country within the shortest period of time in the history of the world.
Like other politicians, he left footprints of both merits and drawbacks. As a real liberal democrat, he was one of the biggest contributors to the democracy of Korea.
His magnanimous temperament, however, worked sometimes as an obstacle when handling sensitive economic issues that need an elaborate and strategic handling. A good example was the hasty joining of the OECD, which led the nation to the financial crisis of 2007. With “Civilian Government” as the slogan, his government excited the public by joining the OECD. But the Korean economy collapsed upon the breakout of the financial crisis amid the lack of knowledge and expertise as to how to run a small open economy in the battlefield of the global economy.
Now, the Korean economy is suffering from lower levels of profitability, employment and growth potential than those in the financial crisis 18 years ago. Despite the incumbent President’s petition, the opposition is busy looking for political advantages ahead of the general elections scheduled for next year, neglecting bills to revive the national economy and pending them in the National Assembly.
Also, the labor organizations that were engaged in destructive fights surrounding the revision of the Labor Act 18 years ago are doing exactly the same thing now. They held hands with some bellicose politicians to give rise to violent rallies and strikes, impairing the power of the national economy. The opposition is refraining from criticizing them with the general elections around the corner.
All the politicians who visited the former President’s funeral parlor talked about reconciliation, but they sounded hollow. What they are chasing after now is not a grand plan for the nation’s future, but their own immediate interests. The rise of China and revival of Japan are posing a threat to the manufacturing sector of Korea, which has been the backbone of the national economy, and Korean industries are worried again about what the future holds for them.
We have already witnessed how political and economic failures repeat themselves in the middle of irresponsibility and conflicts. Korea’s future could not but be dark if the narrow-sighted continue to prevail in a political arena that is now devoid of all the giants of industrialization and democracy.