My belief is that economic growth and welfare policies must go together.
Although Korea is well recognized as a country ranking within top 10 countries in terms of economic growth and trade volumes, the happiness index of our citizens is only at the 68th out of 143 countries surveyed by a british economy foundation and the suicide rate in Korea is the highest in the world. The gloomy picture of Korea seems to originate from relative deprivation and frustration from income disparity.
More than anything, the most important concern is that the national social capital has been diminishing significantly. There is a saying 'Honesty is the best policy.' Our parents have taught us to live honestly. However, in reality many leaders have achieved their power and fame without being honest and fair in their dealings. Especially in businesses, the ends often justify the means. we must focus on building trust in our society.
Dissatisfaction and frustration among us tend to be less when we are poor than when we are well off. As our economy progresses, we need to find ways to mitigate conflicts among our citizens by distributing opportunities and economic fruits fairly. Proper adjustments and modification in our economic system is essential to lessen frustration and conflicts among the members of our society because freer market capitalism has a tendency to deepen income disparity.
One of the most important reasons of the income disparity is economic growth without creating jobs. In the past 10 years, the number of jobs created by large companies was reduced by 490,000 whereas the number by small and medium sized companies increased 3,500,000. The trickle down effects have not materialized.
In this administration, the government spending for social welfare policies decreased 2% and the decreased budgets do not seem to have been properly invested for the welfare of underprivileged citizens. It is not right to cut taxes for the rich when the government finance has been sustaining deficits under this administration.
Opening our borders can intensify the income disparity. We must take cautious measures with respect to various FTAs to ensure that our markets do not become a jungle. Also Our supports for North Korea should be perceived as investments as we will be responsible for the SOC expenditures after the unification of North and South.
Lastly, large corporations and the rich must fulfil their social reasonabilities. They are the ones who have been benefiting from free market capitalism and democracy. In 2010, the economy grew 6.2% and the trade surplus was $40 billion without improving the quality of life of the majority of Korean citizens. Especially, due to the effect of high currency rates of the Korean Won relative to the Japanese Yen, export oriented large companies benefited far more at the expense of high costs of small and medium sized companies supplying parts and materials. What we need to accomplish is "economic democracy" which means fairness in terms of economy. Although large companies should strengthen their competitiveness, extreme concentration of capital, wealth and opportunities on large companies should be mitigated as it can threaten the development of democracy in our country.