$1 trillion trade
Focus more on quality than quantity
South Korea will soon become the world’s 9th-largest trading nation with its yearly trade exceeding $1 trillion in a few weeks. The country deserves praise for this record. It can demonstrate to the world its great potential for growth and prosperity.
No nation except Korea has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse and working democracy in such a short period. Korea’s foreign trade, the combination of exports and imports, stood at a meager $100 million in 1951. The sum has now risen 10,000-fold. It is no exaggeration that Koreans have made an economic miracle, rising from the ashes of the Korean War.
Of course, there have been many side-effects of rapid development under dictatorial rule in the 1970s and 80s. Koreans had to bite the bullet in 1997 when the Asian financial crisis hit the nation. However, it has successfully overcome adversity to join the G20 group and become a leader in world trade.
Koreans have many reasons to take pride in their feats. But they should not be overconfident because they have to meet growing challenges within and without. The country needs to deal with global economic uncertainties arising from the eurozone debt crisis. It also has to ensure geopolitical stability in the face of security threats from North Korea.
Against this backdrop, South Koreans had better prepare themselves for a new beginning. It’s time for them to have a new way of thinking and new ideas to create a new future. They must take on a new mission of re-creating a nation totally different from the existing one.
It was inevitable for Korea to increase trade with other countries to sustain its economic growth. The nation has developed an export-oriented economy, deepening its dependence on foreign trade and increasing its exposure to external shocks. It is urgent to shift its focus from a quantitative growth to a qualitative one. For this, Korea must create a balance between exports and domestic demand.
It is also necessary to beef up small- and medium-sized enterprises. The strategy of favoring big businesses for export promotion has its limits, concentrating wealth on a small number of family-run conglomerates. Sustainable growth cannot go on without co-existence and co-prosperity between big and smaller firms.
The rapid economic development has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, deepening social polarization. The middle class has shrunk significantly since the 1997 crisis. A large number of people have suffered due to the jobless economic growth over the past 10 years. It is imperative to hammer out new strategies to narrow the gap and create more jobs so that all players can enjoy an equitable share of the economic well-being. Then Korea can become a real economic and trade power.