Thursday, May 20, 2004

Korea's philosophy on white collar crime

I used to be a pretty laissez-faire guy in the US. However the more I am in Korea, I realize that some controls on the market are a good thing. For example, I thought OSHA was a bad thing in the states until I saw a Korean construction site. Further experiences shown me that not only should have rules, you should also enforce them consistently. Going back to my example, one can complain about OSHA's regulations, however their consistency in applying them is predictable.

This all brings me to this analogy in on opinion piece by Moon Chang-keuk, the editor of the Op-ed page of the Joongang Ilbo:

A market is a place where all sorts of people gather. There are merchants and speculators, food sellers and pickpockets. Money goes around and an order is formed naturally. If police officers with clubs are sent to clean the market because the authorities decide it is dirty, the market would lose its vigor.

What genius thinks it's a good idea to have "pickpockets"? Why can't the police clean up these people? What if the merchants have formed a cartel? What if somebody sells products that are, as Korean law always so eloquently puts it, immoral and dangerous to society?

(Speaking of "immoral" products in Korea, did you know that you can not patent a dildo in Korea, while the US patent office has issued at least 15 for such devices?)

This is trouble some to me, since it is indication of how Korea sees its business market, and perhaps business in general. While one could quibble about the details anti-competitive practices, I am troubled that of the fact that "pickpockets" are not only considered part of the market, but a desirable part of the market.

You could say that I over reacting, however seeing how corporate, and even government, malfeasance is treated here, coupled with this makes me wonder if crime does pay.


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