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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Jan. 21)

All News 07:17 January 21, 2016

Economic democracy
: Parties encouraged to debate growth strategy

The debate on economic democratization is likely to be rekindled in the run-up to the upcoming parliamentary elections as the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea is staking its campaign on the controversial concept.

The Minjoo Party recently named Kim Jong-in, an iconic advocate for economic democratization, to lead its election campaign. The appointment was a surprise, given that Kim had worked as a key strategist for President Park Geun-hye in the 2012 presidential election.

Kim is known as the architect of the famous “economic democracy” clause of Korea’s Constitution. Park invited Kim as her economic mentor because she sought to preempt the liberal agenda by presenting a progressive economic and welfare platform.

Her strategy worked. The platform Kim drafted for Park blurred the lines between the conservative and liberal camps, making it difficult for the latter to distinguish itself with reform and welfare pledges.

But after her ascendance to the presidency, Park embraced the “creative economy” as her guiding vision and sought to dilute the progressive tone of her economic policy. Kim felt alienated and left the ruling Saenuri Party in 2013.

Now, Minjoo Party leader Moon Jae-in is following in Park’s footsteps. He sees Kim as a savior. He announced Tuesday that he would resign from his post soon, delegating all his powers, including the authority to nominate candidates for the April election, to Kim.

Moon is betting that Kim would be able to capture the hearts and minds of voters with fresh proposals for economic democratization. He is convinced that no concept captures the spirit of the times better than economic democratization, in light of the deepening socioeconomic polarization in Korean society.

Accepting Moon’s offer to lead the Minjoo Party on his behalf, Kim said that to gain people’s support in the upcoming elections, the party should focus on reducing social and economic inequalities and realizing economic democratization.

It is unclear how the party’s strategy will play out in the election. Yet one thing is clear: The current economic situation offers a fertile ground for debate on economic democratization.

The Korean economy is in trouble as its old growth model based on exports and large corporations has reached its limits. Some suggest that Korea should now pursue growth by expanding domestic demand and promoting joint growth of large and small firms.

It is hoped that the two parties debate economic democratization intensively during their campaigns, helping the nation find an answer to the question of how to run the Korean economy for long-term prosperity.

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