Wednesday, March 9, 2011

North Korea Welcomes Seoul's Move to Planned Economy

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The North Korean news agency has released a statement welcoming the South Korean Cabinet decision to abandon capitalism in favor of the state control of prices which the North implemented almost 58 years ago at the end of the Korean War. The Korean Central News Agency said that "Capitalism is the most reactionary and unpopular society as it harshly exploits and oppresses the toiling masses, regarding them as breathing tools and means for material production."

While South Korea's corporations have long classed their employees as breathing tools for tax and holiday purposes, the Finance Ministry in Seoul countered that nobody is harshly exploited under the South's capitalist system – at least nobody worth speaking of. At a tense press conference a spokesman also angrily denied that under its newly announced 5 Year Plan the South Korean government is deliberately preventing companies from raising prices - as part of a strategy to stop runaway inflation as well as taking the first step towards economic and political unification with the North.

The Cabinet has publicly said it has merely 'stepped-up price monitoring' of 16 agricultural, livestock and fishery products including apples, garlic, beef and eggs, although those who read the 500-page statement also noted the inclusion of price monitoring on the euphemistically termed 'service' fees for bathhouses and saunas which many politicians are known to frequent. Politicians have already said they intend to increase the frequency of their bathhouse visits, although purely for 'price monitoring' purposes.

In addition, price freezes have been imposed on public utility prices, and the Ministry of Public Manipulation and Insecurity (MPMI) said it will lend 'administrative' support to the effort. Public utility companies are expected to comply with the order since several executives were hospitalized during earlier 'administrative' efforts to control prices by South Korea's homeland security ministry.

Meanwhile, the nation's antitrust agency – the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) – said it was launching its largest ever probe into 'price fixing' and 'inflation triggering'. Reacting to the news, an economist in Seoul too fearful to give his real name - and who instead will only be referred to as Kim, 43 years old - said that the FTC was supposed to "restrain the concentration of economic power and create a competitive market environment", not "micro-manage prices". Kim said that the FTC Korea's flourishing chaebol were testament to the woeful failure of its primary goal, and suggested it would be no more successful in its attempts to implement the price controls of a socialist planned economy.

Private companies and colleges have reacted with shock at the move to impose the communist-style price controls on their products. The CEO of one private company, 47 year-old Kim, said he thought "we were living in a capitalist country, not one where I have to sell my products at a loss just because the government lost control of the economy." But the Finance Minister, 52 year-old Kim, said that such criticisms were politically naive, since ultimately the cost of mistakes made by government are always borne by ordinary citizens.

Related Links
Korea to intensify price monitoring
Gov't to Freeze Public Utility Prices in 1st Half
FTC launches massive probe into price fixing
S. Korea launches 'all-out' war against inflation
KCNA - Capitalism Termed Unpopular Society (blocked in South Korea)

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