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South Korean Politics, Economy Viewed via 20th General Election
Publisher Note
South Korean Politics, Economy Viewed via 20th General Election
  • By Jack H. Park
  • March 29, 2016, 03:00
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South Koreans are extremely disappointed with the recent political behaviors of the country’s ruling and opposition parties ahead of the April 13 general election. It is concerned that their disappointment may lead to political indifference as well as political distrust to cause the nation to fail to cope with challenges from home and abroad.

After the past era of developmental dictatorship, South Korea has become a representative democratic state in Asia through peaceful transfers of power. At the same time, the South Korean economy has achieved a miraculous growth from one of the poorest countries in the world in the mid-20th century to the 14th-largest in the world in terms of GDP with an annual trade volume of US$1 trillion. In short, South Korea has become an amazing country that achieved democracy and economic growth at the same time.

At this moment, however, the nation is at a critical juncture with regard to how to further develop its democracy and economy. An increasing number of people are doubtful about whether the political circle, the government and entrepreneurs are fulfilling their respective roles to renovate the state and reform the economy at this turning point.

These days, signs of another economic crisis are all around in South Korea. Its potential economic growth rate has been on a constant decline along with South Korean enterprises’ profit rates. Specifically, the average profit rate was as high as 8% or so back in the 1970s and approximately 7% between 1980 and 2000 but it dipped below 7% in the 2000s and then fell to about 5% as of late. Nowadays, companies in its key industries are producing little profit.

Everyone talks about another crisis of the nation’s economy that is failing to create new business models or come up with new, high value-added technologies due to the lack of capabilities to suggest creative solutions. The nation cannot make a breakthrough in the current stagnations just by benchmarking as it has done. It has to find out the new economic and industrial models based on the accumulated experiences of success and failure, but now only to fail.

The same failure is being witnessed in the nation’s politics, too. The political circle has failed to create new models of politics based on its decades of success and failure and has been just stuck in the endemic political culture and behaviors. At every general and presidential election, Korean politicians have carelessly lost sight of their experiences of failure while  neglecting the accumulated political asset of experience, just spinning the dumbed-down political behaviors without establishment of any innovative political culture and system.

The general election is around the corner. It seems that Korean politicians will fail again to come up with creative models of hope and vision. Under the circumstances, concerns are on the rise over the feasibility of the Korean government’s creative economy initiative.