Thursday, December 20, 2007

Koreans opt for the 747

In their just-concluded election, Koreans went for the gut, rather than abstract issues of engagement with the North, and all that. Korea has the world's eleventh biggest economy, but its ascent to new economic heights has been stymied in part by sclerotic policies. The new president promises to change all that.

A business executive background has burnished President-elect Lee's market-friendly persona. I just hope that being "business-friendly" does not translate to being friendly to "some business" - the mistake of booty capitalism. A real pro-market policy is friendly to "any business", even of businesses that do not yet exist. (That's my neoclassical-rationalist koan for you, grasshopper.)

Here is the President-elect's English language homepage, containing his platform and bio. The bio was especially interesting, covering his famous rags to riches story (but more of the rags, actually). I could say that this suggests the following hypothesis: inculcating values among juveniles conducive to respect for property rights, desirability of commercial exchange, and low valuation of leisure time creates an intergenerational pathway out of poverty. Anecdotal evidence:

The beggar family had a son of my age, and I became friend with him. I envied him so much. Although my parents worked hard at the market every day, I and my brothers and sisters often had to skip meals. Often, we would drink from the water pump to fight the hunger. However, my friend had somewhat different life. Every morning, after his beggar parents make a tour all around the town, Then his family would sit together and eat rice. It was not a corn soup. It was not a dreg, it was rice. How much I envied him as I watched through the open doors! I thought ‘Ah, my family is not even better than a beggar.’

I came across this friend after decades have passed since then. One day, when I was serving my country as a member of the assembly, I visited Los Angeles of United States. ‘Hey, Myung Bak!’ Somebody called my name after I finished a ceremony. It was that beggar friend next door. I was totally surprised. Living in LA, he came to visit me as soon as he knew I came here. For all night long, we talked; sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughs. It is then he told me his history. ‘When we were still kids, I thought my family was better off because we had rice every day.’ Then he said he found out later That his parents raised their children not by working but by begging. Eventually, all his brothers and sisters lead poor lives now, And only he has managed to fly over to the States and barely make living. He told me ‘Now I have all grown up, I realized why your parents always worked hard and never sought others’ property.’ I felt ashamed for myself, who envied the ‘Meals of my beggar friend’.

This is the set of values that Koreans have voted for. See you on the runway.

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