Breaking down Regionalism and Integration of South Korea
Searching for the Tomorrow of the Korean Community
Kim, Bookyum (Representative of the 16th, 17th, 18th Korean Government Administrations)
1. The Current Situation of South Korea
South Korea ranks first among OECD countries in elderly suicide, elderly poverty, and general suicide rate. Korea’s birth rate ranks the 27th out of 28 OECD countries. One of every three couples gets divorced and the employment rate of adolescents is only 39.7%. These dismal situations are clearly seen on the faces of Korean adolescents you can find on the subway every morning.
2. Economic Inequality in South Korea
According to a report published in February, 2013, the income levels of parents exert direct influence on college admission and the prestige status of colleges their children attend. Given the effect of the college prestige status on the quality of employment, there is a vicious cycle of economic inequality which is deepening the gap between the rich and the poor. Since the high incomes come mostly from financial investment and business running, it is very unlikely for common workers to compete with those who have inherited wealth. Therefore, the government policies which have been trapped in the fallacy of the average national income should be changed to focus more on raising the income of the lower classes.
3. The Conflicts of Regionalism and Ideology
The regional conflict between Honam and Kyungsang provinces had not been found in Korea until 1971, when the politicians began to abuse this conflict. Currently, the opposition party is not successfully playing the role of suggesting alternative policies, which seems to be the result of region-based party politics. Representatives who know they’ll be elected as long as they are in the right region don’t try hard to serve the people. The ideological conflict, which originated in the Korean War, is also exaggerated and encouraged by unscrupulous politicians. They want to let the people throw ideological stones at each other so that the people will be too busy fighting each other to check what the politicians are really doing.
4. Ways to Overcome Regionalism
In this way, Korean politics are overfed with ideology and devoid of legitimate policies. In order to overcome these pathetic situations, we need institutional reforms and improved participation of the people. Since 1987, when the current Constitution was enacted, we have increased the people’s rights. This should be included in the Constitution so that more rights can be distributed to the people. Also, some acts on the division of the territory should be revised so that we may recognize North Korea as a separate country like international laws and communities do. The voting rate among those in their twenties is half that of the fifties. More young people should have interest in politics and express their ideas openly and there should be more politicians who take on challenging tasks.
5. Ways for Integration of the People
Every year five hundred thousand young people come to the employment market but only fifty thousand get a decent job. We can’t ask each individual to find a better life in their own way. Public measures to ease the tense job market should be taken. Again, solidarity should be improved. Penguins are said to huddle together when the weather is very cold. They place the young in the center and then females, the smaller males, and the bigger males circling one another to go through the harsh period. We should learn from penguins. Let’s not regard ‘being different’ as ‘being wrong’. Only when we can accept the difference among us can we be ready for reunification. A recently published report says that the end result of reunification will be in the black. When we lead the public to integration with this kind of hopeful vision, the people will readily leave the old or current conflicts behind and gain hope and confidence for the future again.
Translation by Kang, Soo Jung
President of Salt&Light