[Issue] February 2014 / Vol.2 No.4 – CCEJ Opinion
President Park’s Regretful New Year’s Press ConferenceHan-ki KimDirector of Economic Policy TeamOn January 6th, President Park held her first press conference of the year. Her three-year plan for economic renovation includes normalizing reforms, economic innovation, and bolstering domestic spending. With this approach, she proposes to increase the potential growth rate to 4% in the next three years, raise the national income per capita to around 40,000 dollars, and achieve a 70% employment rate by expanding opportunities for women and youth. She also seeks to build an infrastructure that will allow for an era of unification on the Korean peninsula, thus reducing the social costs that emanate from a divided North and South.It is regrettable that this message was Park’s first press conference after an entire year in office. Her disharmonious methods of political division have resulted in the dishonor of being nicknamed the “dis-communication president.” Therefore, she must do away with her visions of partisan politics and simply get through her own administration.
President Park proposed reforming the public sector, especially state owned companies, as her primary goal in a three-year plan for economic renovation. The state owned companies are poorly managed yet their workers receive lavish benefits with large payouts in bonuses and welfare. President Park intends to address negligent management of several state owned companies. However, many state owned companies are not suffering primarily from mismanagement, but rather, they are corrupt due to the intervention of politics and political authorities. For example, the four river project of former president Lee Myung Bak originated in a state owned company. The result of the project was disappointing due to environment degradation and corporate corruption. Therefore, the Blue House and its administrators must first be the ones to be free of any corruption.President Park also expounded on her desire to create a dynamic, creative economy through joint public and private efforts. Yet the very idea of a so-called “creative economy” is still not clear. There are still in existence from past governments, projects like IT•BT•NT•CT convergence, enlarged venture-enterprises, and energy and environmental activities. It is not even clear yet if her “creative economy” is merely a succession of the prior government or is something altogether new. Overall, the conference did not include practical solutions, but rather raised worries that a chaebol-reliant economy would still persist.One of the president’s goals is to construct an economy where domestic consumption and outbound exports are balanced. In doing so, she seeks to expand investments in smaller enterprises and to concentrate on raising five promising service-industries which include health/medicine, education, tourism, finance and software. The idea behind this is her notion of economic democratization. Nevertheless, her sincerity ought to be seriously questioned, given that her related promises during the last election have literally disappeared. Furthermore, circumstances show the nature of subcontracting that exist between small and large enterprises, which means that any alleviation of regulations would primarily benefit the larger enterprises, and not the smaller ones. Thus, through this press conference, it is mostly disappointment and despair that people should feel, especially the young.Unification was also mentioned, with President Park saying that an era of a unified Korea is needed. Her idea was to lead global efforts to cooperate on dismantling North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear power, while building channels for trust and peace through linking Eurasian railways and creating a DMZ peace park. In addition, she called for the reunion of separated families, but the president seems to have forgotten that the priority should be to abolish the 5•24 measure and build a genuine process of trust.The president still refuses any discussion on several issues such as the NIS scandal, and the privatization of railways and medical industries. As she is the one responsible for resolving social conflicts, she should have taken clearer positions in accordance with a public consensus that she so desires. Only by doing so, can politics retrieve its original purpose and start anew at building a stabilized administration for the whole nation. In order for the authorities to avoid future burdens, it is high time that the president adequately answer the voice of the people.In sum, President Park’s first press conference of the year failed to create an atmosphere for amicable integration and reconciliation, and did not live up to the expectation of providing real solutions for the normalization of politics. To begin her second year, the president needs to build consensus by including and converging the opinions of people from all walks of life, something she failed to do in her first year.