President Moon Jae-in said Saturday he would establish new standards for economic democratization.
His remark came at a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the June 10 Democracy Movement, which led to constitutional revision for direct presidential election.
“Severe inequality in income and wealth threatens our democracy. Job crisis is the root cause of inequality,” he said. “Let’s get rid of undemocratic elements in our society.”
Economic inequality should be addressed and job creations are urgent. Eliminating undemocratic elements is needed.
As needed is democratic means to democratize the economy. But given the attitude toward businesses Moon and his de facto transition team showed recently, it is questionable if his administration will be able to democratize the economy democratically.
The Policy Planning and Advisory Committee met with representatives of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises on Thursday.
It was the new administration’s first meeting with business leaders.
“In the big picture, it is a bit early to carry out (Moon’s labor policies),” KCCI Chairman Park Yong-mann said. “We need to find feasible measures.”
A committee member said, “It is hard to change the new government’s labor policy because it contains the president’s thoughts.” That is to say that businesses should accept the policy without complaining.
Park Sung-taek, chairman of the federation, said, “We are much worried about policies to curtail working hours and raise the minimum wage.”
A panel member scolded business participants, saying, “None of the past governments tried to support small and medium businesses as strongly as this government. You didn’t say such words as ‘we can do this or that.’ Do you think the same way the Korea Employers Federation does?”
Last month, a senior official of the Korea Employers Federation criticized Moon’s policy to convert all public-sector irregular workers into regular staff. Moon rebuked the organization, saying it should feel responsible for causing economic polarization and reflect on itself before making any criticism.
Policies to grant regular status to irregular workers, increase the minimum wage and reduce working hours may affect the fate of businesses. There is no doubt they are worried about those vital policies.
The hard truths they voiced at the meeting would not have sounded pleasing to the committee. Well intentioned though they may be, economic policies often fail due to unexpected outbreak of side effects. That’s why the government should gather diverse ideas from businesses to prevent adverse effects. Once the minimum wage is raised and working hours are curtailed, it will be almost impossible to roll them back.
The committee boycotted a briefing by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on Tuesday for a reason that it did not show sincerity to carry out Moon’s election pledge to abolish the basic telecommunication rate. The committee should not have snubbed the ministry. It should have been briefed and examined practical problems related to the pledge.
Creating jobs, raising the minimum wage and reducing working hours are needed, but businesses should not be forced into complying with government policies. Tax audits or executive sanctions should never be tried to tame businesses.
Moon has not met with business leaders yet. He should hear directly from them if needed to create jobs. Policies can work properly when they reflect opinions of those whom they are to serve.
There is no reason to keep election pledges or policies intact. Policies out of touch with reality will likely have ill effects. Businesses should lead job creations and economic growth. All the government has to do is to foster a business-friendly atmosphere and encourage corporate investment.
Promoting diverse voices is the right place to start economic democratization. Undemocratic democratization will make the economy dysfunctional and end up as an evil to exorcise.