Senior, English Language & Literature
Today many Koreans are suffering from the economic crisis that originated in the United States. Obviously, the hard times are not just in Korea, they are all around the world, many countries are in similar situations. However as an export-oriented economy, it is evident that Korea is facing more challenges than most other countries.
Few people would deny the fact that Korea has achieved economic success as the world's 13th largest economy by pursuing government-led, export-oriented policies. Along the way, however, we have created numerous chronic problems such as unbalanced economic concentration in major conglomerates, devastation of agriculture, and a widening income gap among social classes. We have ignored these internal problems for the sake of expanding the economy. However, faced with today's bleak global background, these problems have come into focus more than ever before. Now is the time for us to examine whether it's in the country's best interest to continue on this track. I think current debate on the economy and politics can be summed up in one question. "Do we need a major change?" my answer is yes.
There are many economic factors that are not favorable to us. The fluctuating price of crude oil and other raw materials is detrimental to our economy. World-wide inflation naturally leads to domestic inflation of consumer prices. We have suffered from high inflation in the market since last year. What's worse, the government of President Lee decided to depreciate the Korean Won to promote exports, which seriously deteriorated the situation. The government spent huge amounts of money to stabilize the foreign exchange market, but its endeavor ended up wasting precious foreign currency reserves. Also, we have already witnessed that maintaining a high exchange rate didn't help boost our economy. Even though our major export companies have the upper hand in price competition on the global market, their profits do not offset to the sacrifices of common people in Korea. Moreover, it is doubtful that these big companies will be able to readily create enough jobs for many stricken job seekers. The export-oriented economy has already created the term "expansion without hire" due to its lack of impact on the job market.
I believe a good start would be to revive agriculture. We depend too much on foreign sources of food. If we continue to increase imports of food and give up our domestic agriculture, we will be trusting other countries to feed us. Food policy can be a destructive weapon if sources are not secure. We should not allow food to become another version of crude oil.
The revival of agriculture may also be able to have positive effects on other industries. I want to call it the "trickle-up" effect. Not only in the restaurant industry, but also the manufacturing sector, and distribution firms would be the main beneficiaries. Agriculture can be another dynamic force for our economy. We may be able to boost our economy from the bottom, and of course, we could address serious job loss problems. I think we can export various farm produce such as ginseng, apples, recently-developed paprika, and so on.
Finally, I want to stress the importance of "national unity". Unity should not just be a political slogan for politicians to use whenever they try to push their policies. To achieve true unity, the government needs to come up with laws and policies for the common people in Korea. I often see many elderly citizens on the street who are making a living by picking up paper and bottles. However hard they work, they still have to worry about daily meals. We need to be more concerned about them. If the government wants to create jobs for college graduates, they could hire more social workers rather than push them to be non-regular workers. Needless to say, some improvements in the social system could benefit the underprivileged substantially.
In order to get through this economic crisis and furthermore prepare for our future, we need to question where we are now and what we can do to make a better society. This is the right time to come together.