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[Editorial] Where to start to eradicate poverty
on Oct. 17th, World Poverty Elimination day
Chamsaesang newscham@jinbo.net
October 17th was named "World Poverty Elimination day" by the UN. The UN appointed this day in 1993, and as part of it's Millenium Development goal in 2000 resolved to reduce poverty and starvation significantly by 2015. However, in spite of this resolution there is no sign of any significant reduction in poverty. In 2001 as the basic year, the number of extreme poor living on less than $1 a day reached 11 hundred million people while 27 hundred million people, approximately a third of the world population are making their living on less than $2 a day.

While the rate of the reduction of the number of the extremely impoverished is slowing, the gap between the wealthy and poor is growing. It is known that the number of millionaire households is just 0.7%, but the wealth they possess comes to a third of the world's riches. Rich people, 0.1% of world population control 17.5% of the world's riches. Of these super rich, 50% flock to the US and Canada and 25% to the EU. The recent gulf between rich and poor in the US, the strongest nation in the world economically, is recorded at the highest level since World War Ⅱ. Moreover, the discovery of a dairy documenting a Japanese man's life as he was dying of hunger was quite a shock. He starved to death at home and was only found several months after his death. This happened in Japan, which is also, economically, one of the worlds great nations. He wrote in his dairy moments before dying that he wanted to have a ball of rice to eat.

The IMF, which exercised an overwhelming influence over the severe restructuring program during the foreign exchange crisis of Korea in 1997, will include the comment "Technology and foreign investment are aggravating the inequality in the world" in its report of 'World Economic Prospects' soon to be published. Although this comment is only a half acknowledgment because it exempted trade, which is one of globalization's three important factors, along with technology and foreign investment, it is meaningful because the principal offender of globalization has admitted that globalization is the cause of the poverty and inequality. In the meantime, having admitted that neo-liberal globalization is exacerbating poverty and inequality, the IMF stressed that accelerating globalization could be an alternative plan. But, now it is clear that globalization is not an alternative plan to solve poverty and inequality but rather the cause of these problems.

The reality of Korean society is not different. According to the government's official statistics the number of poor is over 5 million, but there are no indications that the number will fall. Moreover, the gulf between the poor and rich is only widening. These days can not be described as a '20 to 80 society' but a undoubtedly a '5 to 95 society'. Modern Korea is a society in which poverty is not the exception but the rule, and where globalization, international competitiveness, and economic development are believed to be the only way to survive.

The presidential election that will determine the sway of political power in Korean society for the next 5 years makes little difference. Referring to statistics, candidates suggest that economic development is the only way to overcome social polarization. The approval rate for one candidate who is promoting this economic development platform, is far over 50%. Preparing to enter into a new phase of liberalization and globalization, Korea-US FTA has ratification in national assembly near at hand. Also, lots of other FTA's including Korea-EU FTA are being pushed through. Even within the progressive camp, the dark shadow of 'economic development' is being spread. Furthermore, essential public facilities such as water and electricity are trying to be passed through the jungle market of so called profit and competition.

In this situation, facing World Poverty Elimination day on October 17, labor and social organizations, including 'Social Solidarity Against Poverty', convene 'People's Action to Judge on Poverty' in the name of 'Shout for people's rights'! They have 10 demands to achieve basic living rights and to stop the neo-liberal globalization and provide an escape from a life of penury. History has proved that charity action or aid from governments can not eliminate poverty. on the contrary, when the guarantee of a livable income, the guarantee of basic social services such as housing, health, education and the guarantee of all labor rights were admitted as a 'Right', poverty and inequality have decreased.

Therefore, 'Halting neo-liberal globalization' and 'Achieving basic living rights' are the core measure to be taken for abolishing the modern situation of poverty.

translated by Seo Sun-young

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