All Things Korean; Reform and Social Responsibility

Article excerpt

Paul Kelly of ``The Australian'' says that, ``...social policy and economic policy must be implemented simultaneously... unless we accept this, then market-based economies won't survive, let alone advance...'' The essence of Paul Kelly's comment emphasizes that government policies must aim at key benchmarks to achieve ``a harmonious and inclusive society, giving people a degree of ownership of the new economy, creating a knowledge-based society, and looking after the losers'' in society. Among the many problems facing our nation, unemployment and income inequality are the crux of both economic and social issues, and they must be addressed adequately to achieve economic growth with social cohesion.

Extensive redundancy and retraining programs are part of the economic strategies of Asian countries and the Korean government must put these at the top of the reform agenda. The time has come to review the program of reform packages that the government has been pursuing since 1997. A more critical implication is contained in leading British Conservative Lord Robert Skidelsky's sharp remark that, ``...the East Asian financial crisis had raised the question of how stable globalism is... An academic case for floating exchange rates and unregulated capital movements has been seriously undermined by the recent experience of both... To continue without rules is to risk the destruction of the free market over much of the world and a 21st century which will resemble the worst of our own...''

Korean society must embrace globalization to attain the benefits, and the issues of social inequality and looking after the marginal class of the society must be part of the nation's economic strategy. Speedy transition for the local economy to suit globalization must be made in the financial architecture, and macro-level reforms need to be completed quickly. The real benefit from globalization must come from job creation, a flexible labor market and workforce, and at the same time, the ``losers'' of society must be cared for. The government must come forward with a policy of ``social inclusion,'' as the journalist Kelly properly puts it.

Economic reform naturally comes with its price and communities are concerned about stability and security, fears of change so to speak. Gary Banks of the Productivity Commission in Australia correctly observed this by stating that, ``...much of the resistance to reform stems from disquiet about the effects of change and a heightened sense of uncertainty about the future...'' The government must show its leadership and responsibility to remove such fears in the community. The community's cohesion and social embracing of all disadvantaged from the overhauling of the infrastructure of health, education and employment training must be part of a simultaneous goal of government policy. The government must be honest and frank with its people to push through the change of reform and accept the responsibility for the consequences of the change. …