Hope, Courage and Determination
By Choi Yearn-hong
NEW YORK ― The calamitous decline and fall of both the economy and the stock market has laid waste to markets of every asset traded by man except gold.
Wall Street has become a symbol of corruption and swindles. However, it still exists, looking for a new tide in a year or two. Some see at least a decade for the complete recovery of the economy.
The following is a poem I composed from my trip to New York City.
Later, cancer was detected.
Very quickly, the cancer spread out to the whole body.
The AIG virus was detected in a small lab.
Strangely, the firms made profits in the last 10 years or so.
They enjoyed living in bubbles within the walls.
Inside the bubbles the virus was hibernating like frog and snake.
Then, they declared bankruptcies.
It was that simple. They went to the taxpayers for a bailout.
The innocent investors fell down on the streets of the world.
Sixty-five percent of their investments disappeared without showing any scars.
The criminals spread out new viruses such as: sub-prime virus, Freddie Mac virus, Fannie Mae virus, Greenspan virus and Madoff virus.
Then, GM, Ford and Chrysler fell down.
Viruses eat greed, swindle and corruption, set up bubbles or fog, and kill hard-working innocent people slowly and gradually.
Unprecedented casualties in human history still do not know the end yet.
No inventor has yet discovered the vaccine which can kill the Greenspan virus and Madoff virus.
Good doctors just announced: We should study more about those new viruses.
I am nostalgic to the agrarian society in this modern age.
In the long winter nights, a farmer's dreams are narrow.
Over and over, he enters the furrow.
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed the economic stimulus and mortgage subsidization laws. He is also pondering whether to rescue General Motors and Chrysler or to let them die.
The nationalization of banking organizations has been seriously discussed and denied. Strong regulations on banking and security organizations are mandatory. ``Money in the bank'' is not safe any more.
Obama's actions are bold. Nobody knows whether they will rescue the U.S. economy and the stock market. Cutting taxes and increasing government spending are two measures to be taken. Obama does not worry about inflation.
His major concern is creating three to four million jobs in the United States. He is adopting Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal for the Great Depression in the 1930s. The New Deal meant a major role for the government as an economic player, because there was no other choice. Obama is as courageous as Theodore Roosevelt.
He is optimistic, because he does not have a choice. A leader should see hope from his bold actions. No one blames his boldness and optimism. Some accuse the $780-billion stimulus law ``of not stimulating the economy.'' Wait and see.
All kinds of economic theorists, including Nobel economists, cannot make the future certain. The future will be always uncertain, and the economic future will be much more uncertain. That is why economics is known as a dismal science.
It can be a gamble. But Obama needs a gamble. He hopes the enormous spending will stimulate the economy. We should not doubt the future, though. The gamble is futuristic with a good intent.
Roosevelt made a most unforgettable speech at his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression: ``First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ― nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.''
What could he say? His New Deal could be one big gamble toward the uncertain future.
Sir Winston Churchill also made an unforgettable speech to down the pessimists: ``A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
President Lee Myung-bak has been striving to move the nation forward and has confronted many enemies in and outside Korea. He needs to read good advice from Roosevelt, Churchill and Obama from outside and Admiral Yi Sun-sin from inside at this critical time. Yi's determination ― in repelling Japanese invaders in the 1590s ― should be Lee's as well.
``If you decide to fight the enemy with your life, you will be alive. If you decide to survive, you will be killed." In front of the massive Japanese attack, the commander's speech was a major source of power.
The current Korean situation is not very different from the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. North Korea has been threatening South Korea and opposition parties and interest groups have confronted the ruling party.
Lee should be determined to fight the enemies under these circumstances. Appeasement is not a choice.
I know he is the president in the ``War Room" in the Blue House. He should be listening to Yi's powerful message every morning and every evening.
The Korean economy's engine has been foreign trade. Now, the foreign market is down, so the Korean economy is in difficulty. Lee is trying to do his best.
His four-river refurbishment project will create jobs and stimulate the economy, but idealistic environmentalists and opposition parties are attacking this. In the long run, South Korea should develop its domestic market, and move away from foreign markets.
The world economy is changing, and it is interwoven. However, dependency on foreign markets may make the Korean economy vulnerable.
Controversy can exist always in a democratic society. But he should believe in himself in his service to the nation. The so-called interest-group politics and opposition parties may become enemies from inside.
Lee cannot please every ``enemy.'' He should go out to the people who elected him in the 2007 presidential election and appeal and pressure political enemies to accept his economic rescue plan.
Obama went out to Indiana and Florida to get grass-roots support in order to press the Republican Congress, and signed the stimulus bill in Denver, Colo. If enemies surround him, he should get his friends to weaken them.
Courage is the first quality of presidential leadership in a crisis, because it is the quality that guarantees all others ― rescuing and reorganizing the Korean economy.
Dr. Choi is a poet and writer. His recent poetry book is ``Moon of New York," published in 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of The Korea Times.