Letter to the Financial Times (October 25, 2011)
From Mr Kai L. Chan.
Sir, Watching the Greek tragedy unfold — most recently with protests in Athens that turned violent (“Athens burns: Austerity measures passed despite protests”, report, October 20) — one cannot help but juxtapose these actions with those that unfolded in Korea during the Asian crisis of 1997-98. Greeks are taking to the streets with petrol bombs over the prospect of the raising of the retirement age from 61 to 63, and of the elimination of public sector largesse (average government salaries that are almost three times the level of similar private sector positions).
During the crisis of 1997-98, ordinary Korean citizens were queuing up to donate their gold and jewellery to the central government to help their nation avert bankruptcy. The differences between the two nations could not be more stark. The act of making harsh sacrifices to save their country became a defining moment for the Koreans (Korea has since become the 15th largest economy, having tripled the size of its economy since its nadir in 1998); Greece is looking at its defining moment with an eye towards becoming a have-not country of the 21st century.
Kai L. Chan
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011