Bye Bye Korea

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 15, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Bye Bye Korea

Korea appears to be suffering from a ``bye-bye'' syndrome these days.

Emigrants say bye-bye to Korea. Frustrated foreign investors and tourists may soon say bye-bye to Korea. Many orphaned children say bye-bye to Korea after being rescued from their loneliness by new parents abroad. Many newlyweds and, these days, even elderly folks say bye-bye to each other.

Incompetent or aged wage earners are forced to say good-bye to companies they have worked at for so long. Talented workers are saying good-bye to companies to find jobs at other workplaces in search of better pay.

Many new military draftees are said to be slipping out of the barracks, as they are unable to undergo alleged hardship of basic training.

As many as 53,000 visitors attended the annual emigration fair held at the Convention & Exhibition Center in southern Seoul earlier this month.

Potential emigrants, mostly in their 30s and 40s, accounted for the majority of the fair goers. They said they want to leave Korea for a better leisurely life in such countries as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. They said they want to leave their homeland to help their children get a better education. Some of them said they want to emigrate abroad out of disillusionment with the Korean political situation.

Last year, 15,307 Koreans emigrated abroad. This year about 20,000 are expected to say good-bye to Korea when they leave for their new home. While this certainly enriches the receiving countries, it is raising worries of a brain drain out of Korea.

As the economy is recovering from the currency crisis, there are signs that Korea is returning to the old days of protectionism and highlighting the negative aspects of foreign investment.

The more immediate and obvious economic advantages of pouring foreign investment into Korea have waned.

A return to protectionism will embolden foreign investors to say bye-bye to Korea. European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK) president Jacques Beyssade said last week, ``Let's make sure that `Buy Korea' does not translate into `Bye-bye Korea' from the foreign investors' point of view.''

President Kim Dae-jung has repeatedly emphasized the importance of foreign investment. He said foreign direct investment (FDI) brings in long-term funds, which do not entail interest payment obligation. He said FDI creates jobs, promotes managerial transparency, expands exports, and brings in foreign technology. FDI strengthens national defense, bolsters national pride and makes national companies more prominent worldwide, he said.

Upon assuming the presidency three years ago, he made it a rule to meet any foreign CEO as long as his or her company is committed to investing more than 50 million dollars in Korea. Thus in the first year of his presidency, it was a daily event for Kim to meet foreign CEOs.

A one-stop service center catering to foreign investors has been operating since his inauguration at the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Kim also instructed the economic ministries to select a spokesman for foreign journalists and investors. He invited international businessmen in Korea to a series of meetings at Chong Wa Dae. Model foreign business entities were given a congratulatory citation.

As a result of these efforts, Korea was able to attract foreign investment in amounts unprecedented under previous administrations. The FDI amount that came in over the past three years is larger than the aggregate FDI amount Korea attracted in the past four decades before President Kim took the oath.

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Bye Bye Korea


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