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Consumers Can't Cure What Ails Korea (Int'l Edition)

International -- Readers Report


"Korea is cheering far too soon" (Finance, Apr. 6) was an adequate portrayal of Korea's current status. But it is a myth that Koreans acting as individual consumers and savers can solve Korea's economic crisis by cutting back on consumption.

The commentary reflects advertisement by Seoul emphasizing individual responsibility in the crisis. Gold drives and frugality commercials are propaganda that focus attention away from the real problems, such as transparency and cronyism. By criticizing individual consumer behavior, the author has overlooked distortions by the Korean government and businesses.

Liquidation sales and teenagers going to discos reflect a limited view of the post-IMF era in Korea. Author Moon Ihlwan needs to identify the difference between governmental and business responsibility and individual responsibility. And he fails to draw a correlation between reassurance about the economy from government and chaebol leaders and how that affects consumer behavior.

Asking "why?" is not encouraged in Korea. The typical Korean is supposed to "endure" these difficult times. The Confucian value system stymies many of the efforts that would help Korea overcome its difficulties. The average Korean will still follow the leaders, regardless of their blatant mistakes. It is the Confucian way; it is the Korean way. To challenge these systems is to threaten all that is Korean.

The little street-corner fruit-seller as well as Kim Dae Jung and chaebol leaders face a huge challenge. They must comply with economic and financial principles while maintaining integrity. To many Koreans, change means Westernization and an end to their ethnic identity. I hope that Korea can find a reconciliation between what it views as modern vs. traditional. This is the real Korean crisis.

Maria H. Lisak

Kyungki-Do, South Korea

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