Small Business Administration must be upgraded

Korea can prosper only if it resolves its economic polarization as soon as
possible. To resolve economic polarization, small and medium businesses must
prosper. The only way for small and medium businesses to prosper is to enter
overseas markets.  Stir-fried rice cake stores and bakeries, whose markets are
currently saturated, would have much better chances to succeed if they move to
Southeast Asia instead of struggling by staying in this country. The only way
for the country, which produces no oil and almost no underground resources, to
survive is to make products through knowledge and skills and sell them in the
global market.

The domestic economy is saturated. The
country has become a place where ordinary people can hardly start a business
successfully with the retirement payments or savings that they have worked hard
for their whole lives. According to statistical data released on Dec. 3, every
year 600,000 self-owned small and medium businesses are created, and 580,000 of
them are closed. Furthermore, small restaurants can no longer survive, since big
corporations have entered the food service industry. Even mid-level companies
have joined in expanding their chain-stores all over the country. This creates
more economic polarization.

People say that almost all of
the small and medium businesses in Korea are at the end of a cliff. I think that
it would be better to go abroad rather than to struggle and lose retirement
payments where the domestic economy has been severely polarized due to
saturation and a high dependence on exports. It seems that people would be more
likely to succeed if they move to a country in Southeast Asia with good business
know-how and open a “bulgogi’’ restaurant there. They would be more likely to
expand chain-stores there and grow their businesses into big
franchisers.

These days, the U.S. economy has been growing
better. A worst-case scenario like the so-called fiscal cliff and government
shutdown, about which the world is concerned, is not likely. As the U.S. economy
gets better, so does Korean economy. The second-term Obama administration has
made a big change in foreign relations after severe criticism from the
Republican Party during the presidential campaign. That change was the “Pivot to
Asia”, which means that Asia is the most important region of interest to the
U.S. It means that, unlike the past few hundred years, the future of the U.S.
will be with Asia instead of Europe. This was why President Obama made a visit
to Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand first after his re-election. Russia has also
adopted a similar policy: it has created the Far East Development Ministry and
invested $30 billion in Vladivostok. It looks as if Russia intends to have
another Moscow in Asia. Vladivostok, near Hamgyeong Province in North Korea is a
place that has endless potential for development. Furthermore, Russia likes
Korea. Southeast Asia, China, and India all trust and like Koreans as well. Thus
all these regions are great markets that present great opportunities to
Koreans.

As the products of Korean companies like Samsung,
LG and Hyundai have spread all over the world and their high quality raised the
brand value of those companies, there is no country that does not know Korea.
Korea took 5th place in the Olympics, and K-pop ― thanks to Psy ― has shaken the
world. Big Korean corporations have spread the pride of “Made in Korea’’
throughout the world, and young people have let the whole world know the hidden
talent and potential of the Korean people. Moreover, Korea has become a member
of the U.N. Security Council, and the country has shown remarkable progress in
foreign relations as well.

Now the country needs to elect a
president who is experienced with a good sense of international relations. I am
talking about a president that can look further into the future after 2013,
rather than a president that only looks back at the past and criticizes it.
Korea needs a president that fully realizes how important the growth of small
and medium businesses will be; a president that shares the idea that the middle
class should be strengthened through the success of small and medium businesses;
a president that has plenty of international experience and is keenly aware of
the need for small and medium businesses to expand
overseas.

I would like to see our small and medium
businesses go overseas. Start with a small store, make it a franchise, grow into
a big company, and then victoriously come back with their headquarters in Korea.
They should go abroad, and come back as big corporations, instead of crowding
the country into saturation and blaming big corporations. For small and medium
businesses to achieve this, the government must make an all-out effort and
actively help them.

I hope that the next administration will
put the Small Business Administration, which is currently a part of the Ministry
of Knowledge Economy, directly under the President, just as the U.S. does, so
that it can help small and medium businesses better. I believe that the
importance of small businesses can be conveyed to the President only when, by
raising the status of the organization to the same level as the Ministry of
Gender Equality and Family, its head can attend Cabinet meetings as a minister
and directly report to the President.

Jay Kim is a
former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the Kim Chang Joon US-Korea
Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website at
http://www.jayckim.com.

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