Year of self-awakening: Only people who act when needed deserve to feel well-off

2013-12-31 17:03

Year of self-awakening

Only people who act when needed deserve to feel well-off
January 1 is the day to plan for the New Year, hoping it will be better than the Old Year. Unfortunately, we cannot help but wonder how many Koreans are thinking ― instead of hoping ― that 2014 will be better than 2013, after experiencing all that happened on them last year. Twelve months ago today, President Park Geun-hye opened her first year in office vowing to establish an “era of national happiness.” Toward the end of the year, however, a college student asked in his hand-written poster, “How are you all doing?” An overwhelming majority of people replied, “We are doing terribly badly.”
Nothing better showed the gulf between the self-styled “people-first” leader and what the public actually felt about her state administration than this year-end episode. What’s gone wrong?
In short, the nation’s first female leader spent the whole year reversing her campaign pledges. Most voters could stand the drastic setback in welfare programs and fizzled-out “economic democratization” policy, considering economic difficulties at home and abroad. But they could not tolerate Park’s reneging on promises to seek “national integration” by embracing both her political friends and foes in handling national affairs.
What she did instead was split the nation by appointing unqualified people based only on their loyalty, not accepting those with different views and interests, as shown by her unprecedented clampdowns on unions, and turning a deaf ear to political opponents under the pretext of abiding by self-imposed principles and convictions, which critics ― and a rapidly increasing number of people ― identify with self-righteousness and even authoritarianism.
Former President Lee Myung-bak was cited as the worst leader in decades for rolling back both democracy and the economy. In just one year, President Park appears set to break her predecessor’s record, as people say even Lee was more benign (he did not go as far as to outlaw teachers’ union) and more communicative (Lee said he wept while overlooking demonstrators and listening to their protest song) than the incumbent president who talks about ”motherly leadership.”
The rail workers’ virtual surrender may likely solidify President Park’s image as the “iron lady.” The “British disease” Margaret Thatcher cured was excess welfare and an inefficient public sector. But the “Korea Disease” Park Geun-hye is supposed to cure but is actually aggravating is the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, consequent social conflicts and lack of communication to solve them. Unless and until Park realizes this difference, the president and her people are in for another year of extreme social division and chaos.
In her New Year’s message, the president said she will push ahead with “normalizing what’s abnormal” this year. Park must try first to reach a national consensus on what’s abnormal. For that, she should go out of the presidential mansion and meet with opponents, journalists and the public, not for political show but for genuine, candid dialogue.
Most Koreans are curious whom the president refers to when she mentions ”people” so frequently. Are they the 10 percent with power and money or the other 90 percent who feel increasingly insecure in their incomes, jobs and even basic rights? If Park’s “people” prove to be different from the hard-pressed, struggling public, they must point it out ― through more active participation, social and political.
Only people who are awake and willing to act deserve to feel alive if not happy. Hope is not to be given but made.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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