This may be old news, but what impressed me at CES in January this year was the momentum of Korean companies. When I walked around the venue, the people who approached me were always Korean staff from Korean companies. Most of the staff are young, in their 20s or 30s, and they enthusiastically promote their products and solutions. When I told them that I was Japanese, they were very proactive, saying, “I want to do business with Japanese companies,” and “I do business with Japanese companies, and I want to expand further.” Through these exchanges, I became interested in Korea. Like Japan, South Korea is facing a declining birthrate, aging population, and population decline, but I feel that the atmosphere is different from Japan. I wanted to know where their driving force comes from.
Korea is called “a country that is near and far away.” I had never set foot there, and to be honest, it had always been out of my interest. That’s why I first bought a few books to learn about the situation in South Korea. All of the books were written by Korean scholars and journalists, but the content far exceeded my expectations. For example, reading “Korea: Excessive Capitalism” (Kim Kyung-cheol, published by Kodansha Gendai Shinsho) and “Korean Youth” (written by Midori Anjuku, published by Chuko Shinsho Rakure), we find that in a society steeped in economic supremacy, people are losing their dreams and hopes. The film depicts a young man desperately struggling to survive.
The background to this is that when receiving financial support from the IMF during the Korean currency crisis in 1997, the country was made to commit to reducing the fiscal deficit to 1% of GDP and raising interest rates to stabilize the exchange rate. Another factor cited is the influx of blatant neoliberalism with the 2007 US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
It would be premature to think that you understand it after reading just a few books, but the image of people whipping themselves on their backs and running down a straight road is a country where work addiction and death from overwork have become social issues. I feel that there is something in common with the 1980s and 1990s. Still, South Korea is a country that can serve as a reference for Japan. I want to do more research in the future. (Kei Kitajima)