If one were to watch South Korea’s international broadcast channel, Arirang, most programs these days run with ads that focus mainly on the environment. A particularly frightening visual is that of a world doomsday clock ominously counting down to an environmental implosion. And especially prominent among the ads is one that lauds South Korea’s recent ‘Green New Deal’ initiative. And therein lies the rub. As different governments around the world spend billions in both desperate and calculated measures to reverse the global economic downturn, South Korea is approaching its own revival in its own way.
The country is spending Won 50 trillion or $37 billion during the next four years on ‘green’ projects, which it hopes will create 140,000 jobs this year and 960,000 over the four-year time span. The Green New Deal will focus on energy conservation, building green transportation networks, ensuring carbon reductions and building the infrastructure to use energy more efficiently in the future. Green cars, green neighborhoods, (two million green homes) revitalizing four of South Korea’s major rivers – the promises are impressive.
South Korea needs those promised jobs – as job creation has shrunk to its lowest level in five years in the fourth quarter, and the Ministry of Finance has slashed its 2009 growth forecast to what still seems an optimistic 3%. The government is well aware of the magnitude and potential repercussions of the crisis. ‘We are in an unprecedented global economic crisis,’ South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said in a statement while launching the green initiative. ‘To find a new engine of growth…in this 21st century global environment…new job creation engines must be discovered.’
However, what if most of the jobs (96%) are manual jobs as some sections of the media have criticized? The government has refuted the charge, saying that although most green programs do involve construction jobs, almost 30% of these construction jobs also take in professionals, technicians, and office workers. Officials continue to argue that in these times of shrinking job markets, the 100,000 jobs that are especially created for young adults are indeed substantial.
The Green New Deal hopes to ‘transform crisis into opportunity.’ There haven’t been many bigger crises than this, and no bigger opportunity to go green as now. South Korea has taken a bold step forward in this new global environment. Time will tell if the Green New Deal is the real deal.
Stamp image from public domain in Wikimedia Commons. Term of copyright expired.
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