Nonsense, horsefeathers, and idle musings from a decade in South Korea (2002-2012).


29 November, 2011

Groups are Not Individuals

By Aaron
29 November, 2011

I seldom disagree with Thomas Sowell, and even when I do my first inclination is to think that it's me who must be mistaken, so much do I admire the man. That said, I'm troubled by his latest piece on the issue of immigration.

Take, for instance, these lines from his column:


"There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here."

and

"The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries."


Regardless of whether he's right or wrong on the merits of a policy of open immigration, Sowell here commits the error of confusing groups with individuals, that is, of assuming that the former has the decision-making capacities of the latter. "The American people" can no more decide to "want" a particular immigrant or import in the United States than "the American people" can decide what jeans to wear, what music to listen to, or where to take a summer vacation. Only individuals can do these things, and I assume that Sowell, as an economics professor, would point out as much to any student who erred on this point.

As Don Boudreaux has written: "while many governments today are democratic and, hence, in some degree representative of, and responsive to, the wishes of voters, it remains important to keep in mind that all trade and all political actions ultimately are the result of choices made by individuals"

Individuals trade with, associate with, and enter into contracts with other individuals. Immigrants - illegal or otherwise - are individuals who would not come to the United States if they didn't think that some other individual would be willing to give them a job. They don't expect "The American people" to employ them any more than I expect "The Korean people" to employ me, a legal immigrant. Thus, if "the American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries," I should have the right to decide for myself whether to peacefully enter into a contract with SeƱor Mexicano without anyone else meddling in the matter.

As above, this is not to debate a specific immigration policy, but rather to point out that The American People and The Immigrant People may not be terribly useful terms.


28 November, 2011

Meanwhile, Over at the Korea Herald...

By Aaron
28 November, 2011

In today's edition of the Korea Herald, I make up half of the paper's "Voice" section and defend the general direction of the Korea-USA FTA. My opening paragraphs:

Out of a curious sense that Korean companies deserve special government privileges at the expense of Korean consumers ― specifically, immunity from competition ― hardline members of the opposition Democratic Party did their best to torpedo the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States.

These DP legislators, additionally believing that no man is ever too old to indulge his childish instincts, finally resorted to physical violence after failing to nitpick the deal to death. Fortunately, the benefits to both countries from this agreement will ultimately overshadow such shameless antics.

Nam Hee-sob, of the Korean Alliance Against the KORUS FTA, anchors the other side of the debate.

While I generally supported the passage of the KORUS FTA, I was not as giddy about it as some of my friends for the simple reason that the agreement amounts to managed, not free, trade. Korea Herald reader Brian Arundel, commenting here, sums up my sentiments:

The only thing that bothers me is that the FTA is 1,000 pages long. It should be one sentence long ― “we, the two countries, agree to do nothing to limit trade between our two countries.” This would be a real free trade agreement, but that’s not possible with the vested interests in both countries.

27 November, 2011

Agree With Me Or Else...

By Aaron
27 November, 2011

In the wake of this incident, in which anti-FTA protestor thugs attacked a local police chief, I can only reiterate what I wrote last week:

Those who oppose free trade – if they have even a shred of respect for the dignity of individuals and the competence of adults to make their own decisions – should focus their energies on persuading others to voluntarily reject participation in the global economy. Using one’s fists or the political process to foist such an idea on others is merely a sign that the idea was rotten from the start.

If you have to resort to punching and kicking people to make your point, you've already lost the battle of ideas.



25 November, 2011

Why Not Subsidize Everyone, Then?

By Aaron
25 November, 2011

A quick, Saturday-morning letter to the Joong Ang Daily:

To the Editor:

You report that, since 2007, the Korean government has allocated more than 22 trillion won “to help farmers whose businesses might suffer due to the influx of cheaper produce from the U.S. under the recently approved free trade agreement between the two nations.” (“Farmers Already Getting FTA Budget,” 26 November, 2011)

For decades Korean farmers have benefited from artificial, government-created barriers to competition which forced consumers to pay higher prices for lower quality products. How can farmers now claim to be entitled to compensation simply because they have lost an unearned privilege?

Moreover, there is nothing unique about the effects of international trade on a particular sector of the economy, as market activity of all sorts benefits some while squeezing others. This is true whether the source of dynamism is ever-shifting consumer preferences, technological advance or, yes, international trade. Must we also subsidize certain farmers if consumers began to eat, say, more potatoes and less rice?

Aaron McKenzie
Research Fellow
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul


23 November, 2011

My Korean Deli: A Book Review of Sorts

By Aaron
23 November, 2011


The story, no doubt, will soon be optioned for a sitcom: A Waspy New England literary editor opens a convenience store deli with his Korean mother-in-law in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood. Hilarity ensues. Cue laugh-track. Add in a few other characters – a gun-toting ex-con employee, a lawyer wife, George Plimpton – and you have the plot of My Korean Deli, a memoir by Ben Ryder Howe, aka The WASP.

Howe and his wife, Gab, met at the University of Chicago, he the self-professed “Marxist-Rousseauian” and she the typically driven daughter of South Korean immigrants. After university, he wound up working for Plimpton at the famed Paris Review literary journal and she went into corporate law in New York City. This being New York, however, housing was a problem, money was a problem, and so they moved in with Gab’s parents in Staten Island. They eventually decided that, to repay Gab’s parents for their self-sacrifice, they would use their life savings and a few bank loans to buy a deli for Gab’s mother, Kay, to operate.

Anyone who has lived in Korea – or had a Korean mother-in-law – will recognize Kay. She comes from the generation that endured the Korean War as children and whose skin tends to be leather-tough as a result. As an immigrant to the United States, she did all manner of menial jobs to provide for her family and the prospect of running a deli doesn’t faze her in the least.

Howe is another matter entirely. His New England upbringing, his Socialist leanings, and a career at the donor-funded Paris Review did little to prepare him for the world of commerce. Folks with such pedigrees tend to believe that wealth can simply be regulated into existence.

“The Puritans,” writes Howe of his ancestors, intellectual as well as biological, “were the sort of people who believed that society was at its best when smothered within a government bear hug.”

There is, however, no faster way to demonstrate to a socialist intellectual the complexities of a market society, and the stifling nitpickiness of government, than to put him in charge of running a business. Suddenly, profits are no longer a form of theft, a job is not mere exploitation, and charity is something done voluntarily rather than at the point of a gun. And that bear-hugging state, previously this person’s preferred means of communal uplift, suddenly becomes an annoyance extraordinaire. The following quote, while lengthy, says it all:


Around this time there’s a change in New York City’s official rules for street vendors, the people who sell things like hot dogs and roast nuts on the sidewalk (who presumably do it not because of a passion for the great outdoors but because they can’t afford actual stores). Since we’re not a street vendor, the change doesn’t affect us, but it’s worth mentioning because of what it says about the mentality of small business owners.

The change is an increase in the city’s fines for violations such as not wearing paper hats, standing a few inches (literally) too far from or too close to the curb, and leaving carts unattended while making bathroom visits. Overnight, the fines go up from two hundred and fifty dollars to one thousand, and since most vendors receive an average of seven violations a year—often three or four at once—many are facing ruin. (The kind of sudden and capricious ruin that the cart vendors, many having fled despotically run Third World countries, know all too well.) No public hearings or debates in the city council have been held on this calamitous change for twelve thousand or so of the city’s most economically challenged families. And the only way to fight the tickets is for the vendors to go to an obscure court called the Environmental Control Board, fill out forms and wait for hours while losing more money—this for people who epitomize the embattled yet scrappy New Yorker everyone claims to love. Some street vendors earn as little as thirty-five dollars a day.

Dread is the nature of small business. You’re gnawed by fear that something is going to come out of nowhere and flatten you before you’ve even had a chance to shout, whether it’s a blackout or a government inspector. The urge to seize control of your own destiny, even if it means doing your own precious business harm, can be difficult to resist.


As much as anything, My Korean Deli is a portrait of a city being slowly overtaken by the climbing ivy of regulations, red-tape and The Bureau of Petty Harassment. After reading this book, I'm amazed that New York City has any profitable businesses remaining.

If he was ill-prepared for commercial life, Howe’s background in the literary world served him well in recounting his foray into the market. This fellow, quite simply, can write. In My Korean Deli Howe is fluid, precise, and self-deprecatingly funny. He knows he’s out of his element, that he’s the biggest liability in the whole store, and the book is a chronicle of his efforts to become at least a net neutral presence, if never quite an asset. And as an American living in Korea, I couldn't help but appreciate his descriptions of Korean-American society, filled as they were with both admiration and confusion.

All of which is a long way of saying, buy this book. Read it. Enjoy. If nothing else, you'll come away happy that one more man has learned just how difficult it is to run a damn business in this world.



22 November, 2011

Politics: the Concentration of Animosities

By Aaron
22 November, 2011

My latest letter to the Joong Ang Daily:

To the Editor:

At a recent lecture in Osan, the Buddhist monk and liberal activist Venerable Pomnyun suggested that the solution to Korea’s acrimonious political climate lies in a new political party. (“New Political Force Needed: Monk,” 22 November, 2011)

What the nation will gain by adding yet another faction to the political fray is not clear. After all, one doesn’t break up a dogfight by tossing one more pit bull into the ring. Far from needing more political parties and politicians, then, Korea desperately needs less politics.

Because politics, unlike most aspects of our lives, is a zero-sum affair where the minority must live with the decisions of the majority, virtually any decision made in this arena will incite the ire of one group who fears being trampled by a slightly larger group.

Consider the debate over the KORUS FTA: if the issue of trade were removed from the political arena, individuals would be free to decide whether to trade internationally or to keep their commerce within the local community. When put to a political vote, however, we see brawls in the National Assembly and endless partisan bickering as politicians attempt to decide what is right for everyone.

The Venerable Pomnyun may fancy himself a transcendent political figure, able to soothe souls and unify the masses. Unfortunately, even when a revered Buddhist monk is involved, the use of political channels, though occasionally inevitable, always tends to strain the delicate threads that hold society together

Aaron McKenzie
Research Fellow
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul

Update: The Joong Ang published an abbreviated version of the letter on 25 November, 2011.


19 November, 2011

FTC: Stop Abusing Consumers! That's Our Job.

By Aaron
19 November, 2011

My latest letter to the Joong Ang Daily:

To the Editor:

Once again proving itself oblivious to irony, the Fair Trade Commission recently fined Zespri, a New Zealand kiwi company, 427 million won for unfair trade practices. This penalty comes even as Korean government policy increases the price of this fruit above market levels. (“Zespri Penalized for Unfair Monopoly in Kiwi Sales,” 18 November, 2011).

Among the FTC’s charges: In an attempt to exclude other kiwi brands from store shelves, Zespri allegedly entered into exclusive retail agreements with local supermarkets. To this allegation, one is tempted to say, “so what?” Supermarkets exist to make a profit and can do so only to the extent that they satisfy consumer demand. Thus, if these stores enter into misbegotten agreements with Zespri, their customers will quickly let them know and this information will be reflected in the bottom line. Why should we expect the FTC, which does not bear the consequences of its decision on this matter, to know better than the supermarket about which fruits to sell?

Charging that Zespri’s activities “unfairly restrain competition in the market,” the FTC claims to be concerned that such collusion will result in higher prices and lower quality for consumers. Yet, as your article notes, New Zealand kiwi are presently slapped with a 45% import tariff when they arrive on Korean shores, while Chilean Kiwi face a 12.4% tax – artificial price hikes which are passed on to consumers. Is the FTC also planning to fine the Korean government for this anti-competitive policy?

Aaron McKenzie
Research Fellow
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul


And now that we're on the subject, I have a question, which I ask in good faith (rather than simply rhetorically): Why does the FTC punish E-Mart for maintaining an exclusive supply relationship with Zespri even as, say, McDonald's is allowed to serve only Coca-Cola products? From my anecdotal observations, this sort of contract seems to be quite common.


Update: An abbreviated version of this letter was published here.


18 November, 2011

Coercion: The Last Refuge of Bad Ideas

By Aaron
18 November, 2011

Late last week, at a rally in Seoul against the pending trade agreement between the United States and South Korea, four anti-FTA protestors gave the world a disturbingly candid summary of their movement’s mindset when they attacked a police officer, beating him after he slipped on autumn leaves and fell to the ground. Of course, many who oppose the KORUS FTA will argue that these thugs and their violent tactics do not represent the opposition, and that beating people up is no way to get one's point across. What they are really saying, however, is this: “while we are not personally willing to use violence to achieve our political goals, we are perfectly willing to let someone else – that is, the government – do it for us.”

According to the KORUS FTA tariff tables, the import tax on garlic (to choose just one of the many items there listed) brought into Korea is presently 360%, a policy which enriches local garlic farmers but which harms consumers. Now suppose that you decide that you want to buy some garlic from the United States but cannot afford to pay this exorbitant tariff. You thus embark on a career as a garlic smuggler, somehow slipping clove upon clove into Korea until the customs authorities finally catch you and demand payment of all back taxes.

If you refuse to pay, the officials will not simply shrug their shoulders and let you return to your illicit activities. No, they will put you in prison and, should you attempt an escape, they are prepared to shoot you. And all of this happens simply because you had the temerity to buy garlic from someone on the wrong side of a political border.

That free trade makes us better off than we would be if we insisted on doing everything for ourselves long ago ceased to be a topic for debate (the nature of trade agreements, being managed rather than "free," complicates matters somewhat). You will be more prosperous if you cooperate with people outside your home, outside your neighborhood, and yes, outside of your native country.

Yet, while free trade certainly “delivers the goods” in a way that national self-sufficiency cannot, such materialistic defenses miss the essential moral case for free trade. After all, by what moral code can one justify the imprisonment of a person who, as above, merely wishes to buy garlic from one vendor instead of another, from one side of the proverbial street instead of the other? This, however, is precisely what opponents of free trade are advocating when they promote restrictions on peaceful exchange between consenting adults in different countries.

As economists like David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and countless others have shown, political boundaries have no economic significance. A voluntary exchange between two individuals, wherever on the planet they happen to be standing, makes both sides better off by definition. Similarly, these political borders have no moral significance. Peaceful interaction between individuals on different sides of an invisible line is no less ethical than if those two people happened to be in the same nation, province, city, or neighborhood.

Those who oppose free trade – if they have even a shred of respect for the dignity of individuals and the competence of adults to make their own decisions – should focus their energies on persuading others to voluntarily reject participation in the global economy. Using one’s fists or the political process to foist such an idea on others is merely a sign that the idea was rotten from the start.


16 November, 2011

Imports: The Gains from Trade

By Aaron
16 November, 2011

From the Korea Herald comes this story:

South Korean imports from the European Union grew at a far faster pace than its exports to the economic bloc over the three months since their bilateral free trade deal took effect in July, data showed Sunday.

I'm sure some folks will read this and dive immediately into to the hand-wringing, worrying that Korea's trade relationship with the EU will soon amount to an unsustainable trade deficit. As Don Boudreaux never fails to point out, though, economies are not polities and collectives are not individuals. "Korea" and the "European Union" do not trade goods or services. Rather, individuals in Korea and individuals in the European Union make exchanges, which are then tallied up according to the arbitrary political borders which those goods crossed. That Koreans imported more from Europe than they sent to The Continent, however, does not mean that Koreans, as individuals, are poorer as a result.

More importantly, at least as concerns the KH article, is the bizarre, mercantilist preference for exports which pervades society. Whenever a politician touts a trade agreement, he speaks of the greater opportunity for exporters, of the potential to expand "the nation's" business overseas (what does that even mean?). But consider: why do we export goods? That is, why do we haul our ass out of bed and go to work at ungodly hours? In short, why do we export our labor everyday? Of course: we do so in order to afford groceries, a car, a house, and all the creature comforts that make life more enjoyable.

Exports are only beneficial, then, to the extent that they enable us to import, and the less we have to export in order to get the same amount of imports, the better. If you can buy (import) that DVD box set of the Rambo movies by working for one hour (i.e. exporting one hour of labor), why work for two just to get the same product?

PJ O'Rourke once quipped that "imports are Christmas morning; exports are January's MasterCard bill." True, true. Which is why I couldn't help but crack a faint smile when I read the Herald's story.


15 November, 2011

Reading Chang Ha-Joon (Ch. 8)

By Aaron
15 November, 2011


Drip, drip, drip…

Little by little, Thing by Thing, I’m slowing managing to release my thoughts on each chapter of Chang Ha-Joon’s
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. For a variety of reasons – other commitments, my own sanity, etc. – tearing into Chang’s writings is not my top priority these days, but with any luck, I’ll complete this pet project just in time for his next book. Anyway, on to “Thing 8: Capital Has a Nationality…”


If his writings are any indication, Chang Ha-Joon is a quarrelsome fellow by nature, ornery and always ready to pick a fight even when it’s not clear what he gains by doing so. Chang’s thesis in the eighth chapter of his book seems to be that firms tend to hire more people from their native country, and to keep more of the high-end corporate functions (strategy, R&D, etc.) at home, and therefore….

Therefore what? Chang writes that “home biases do not exist simply because of emotional attachments or historical reasons. Their existence has good economic bases.”

Well, yeah.

Doing business with folks who have a common cultural and linguistic background is a helluva lot easier than trying to cooperate with a bunch of foreigners with whom you can’t communicate and who eat strange-smelling foods. Believe me, I’ve been there.

I confess that I’ve read “Thing 8” three times and still cannot determine how the information contained therein qualifies as a secret, hidden part of capitalism (as the book’s title would suggest).

Even in his blandest moments, however, Chang still manages to make me nervous, as when he writes:

So, if a foreign company operating in the same industry is buying up your national company with a serious long-term commitment, selling it to that company may be better than selling it to your own national private equity fund. However, other things being equal, the chance is that your national company is going to act in a way that is more favourable to your national economy.

Thus, despite the globalization rhetoric, the nationality of a firm is still a key to deciding where its high-grade activities, such as R&D and strategizing, are going to be located. Nationality is not the only determinant of firm behaviour, so we need to take into account other factors, such as whether the investor has a track record in the industry concerned and how strong its long-term commitment to the acquired company really is. [emphasis mine]

How exactly a private firm like General Electric is my company, or why its our concern if GE wants to sell this or that subsidiary to someone else – even to a foreigner (except, one might argue, where national defense is concerned) – is not clear. On the list of “23 Things Chang Ha-Joon Doesn’t Tell You About Himself,” then, is this: he believes he has an ownership stake in your company even if he has never bought a share, lent you money, or otherwise been involved with your firm. And if he doesn’t approve of your sales decisions, he apparently believes that he (or, at least, he and any other Right-Minded Smartfolk who agree with him) has the right to override that decision.

14 November, 2011

Pessimism: Fashionable but Unnecessary

By Aaron
14 November, 2011

My latest letter to The Korea Times:

In an article entitled “Two Faces of Food Insecurity, (13 November, 2011),” Kim Da-ye writes that “the combination of climate-change-related disasters, more people to feed and shrinking farmland sounds like a doomsday scenario.” Yet, while the recent floods in Thailand and the birth of the world’s 7 billionth person made for dramatic news stories, there is little reason to believe that they are signs of a looming apocalypse.

Since at least the time of Norman Borlaug, the so-called “Father of the Green Revolution,” famine has ceased to be a product of weather and has come instead to be the fault of autocrats like Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe, who have each taken once-fertile breadbaskets and turned them into wastelands of hunger. By contrast, starvation has long since ceased to be a problem in South Korea, which when bad weather strikes, can simply import food from abroad. Food security, then, comes not from self-sufficiency but from openness to world markets.

And despite the world’s growing population (and occasional price spikes), real commodity prices have actually fallen about 1% per year for over a century. The world is not, in short, running out of minerals, fuel, or food. If anything, humans appear to be growing ever more efficient at producing their victuals. Consider that, taken as a whole, in 2005 twice as much grain was produced from the same acreage as in 1968. As logical economics would predict, humans become more efficient at using a resource as that resource becomes scarcer.

So let’s try to be optimistic for a moment: for the past 200 years, even as populations have increased and as natural disasters have come and gone, human standards of living have increased at unprecedented rates around the world. Why surrender to pessimism now?


Aaron McKenzie
Research Fellow
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul


Update: This letter was published on 15 November, 2011.



09 November, 2011

Only $200 for 14,400 bits/second!

By Aaron
09 November, 2011



Walter Mossberg, technology writer for the Wall Street Journal, dug back into his archives for this week's column and unearthed his reviews of several tech products from years gone by. The whole piece is a charming bit of nostalgia, and well worth your time, but here are a few samples:

The pocket-size phone: In January of 1992, I declared Motorola's MicroTac Lite to be the first mobile phone you could carry easily in a pocket. It was the first to weigh under half a pound and was "only" an inch thick—about triple the thickness of a slim smartphone today. It cost between $1,500 and $2,500.

Faster modems: Though it would be hardly recognized today, the external dial-up modem was a crucial device in connecting computers around the world. In June 1993, I recommended a popular $200 model, the Sportster, from a company called U.S. Robotics, that had gotten to the amazing speed of 14,400 bits per second. Comparing it with a broadband connection now is like comparing a bicycle to a locomotive.

Color digital camera: In 1994, the Apple QuickTake 100 could store up to 32 shots for a mere $700.


Reading Mossberg's piece, my mind flashed back to this recent Econtalk episode in which Russ Roberts and Bruce Meyer discuss the difficulties of measuring inflation and inequality. Consider, for instance: my 64 GB iPod touch, which I bought in 2010, holds more than 10,000 songs, keeps my calendar and alarms, sends SMS messages anywhere in the world, and also allows me to talk on Skype - all for about $400. Ten years ago, even the wealthiest plutocrat on the planet couldn't get his hands on such a gadget, yet here I am, living far outside the top 1%, walking around with said marvel. Just consider for a moment what implications this has for inflation and inequality statistics.



08 November, 2011

Mind Your Own Business

By Aaron
08 November, 2011

Here's a letter I sent to the Joong-Ang Daily today:

To the Editor:

Late last week, Representative Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the Democratic Party, suggested putting the Korea-United States free trade agreement on the ballot as a referendum. (“To Kill FTA, DP Proposes Putting it On the Ballot,” 5 November, 2011)

Given the political left's recent successes in the school lunch referendum and the Seoul mayoral election, Sohn may have good reason to believe that a public vote on the KORUS FTA would result in the agreement's demise. As an additional benefit, Sohn and his DP colleagues can now tout themselves as champions of democracy, allowing citizens a direct say in their nation's economic policy.

Putting aside the economic merits of the KORUS FTA, however, this use of the democratic process would be an assault on a core tenet of human liberty. Free trade, by definition, requires neither government agreements nor approval at the ballot box by those who are not party to any given exchange. If Jim and Mary wish to make a peaceful trade between themselves, why should Bill and his buddies have the power to either approve or veto this exchange? Similarly, if I wish to buy an American car, why should Sohn Hak-kyu have any say in the matter?

The freedom of association – to choose one’s friends, spouse, workplace, and business partners – is a fundamental feature of a free society, a feature of human dignity which does not require the approval of voters. Sohn and his DP colleagues would thus do well to mind their own business and leave consenting adults free to order their affairs as they see fit, regardless of where on the planet they happen to be standing.


Aaron McKenzie
Research Fellow
Center for Free Enterprise, Seoul



Postscript: This is as good a place as any to announce that, as the sign-off to my letter indicates, I recently accepted a position with the Center for Free Enterprise here in Seoul. Thanks to President Kim Chung-ho and Director of International Relations Casey Lartigue for the opportunity. Here's hoping for much success in needling, pestering and bedeviling the Forces of Petty Harassment!

02 November, 2011

Intentions are Not Results: Korea's Minimum Wage Swells the Unemployment Rolls

By Aaron
02 November, 2011

Among the many disparate demands made by the Occupy Wall Street movement is a call for an increase in the minimum wage to as high as $20/hour (U.S. federal minimum wage is presently $7.25). Hearing this appeal, a thinking person might reasonably ask, "why not $25/ hour, or $50? Hell, why not $100?"

Why? Because, as apartment security guards (gyeongbi ajosshi) in South Korea are about to learn firsthand, minimum wage laws only help workers if employers are unable to adjust the number of workers they hire. This, however, is rarely the case: companies can generally hire fewer workers (and shift to technological substitutes) as the cost of labor increases. Indeed, Korea's gyeongbi ajosshis, through no fault of their own, are about to find themselves priced out of a job by the good intentions of legislators. But as Thomas Sowell has said, "intentions are not results:"

In a 2007 revision to the country’s minimum wage spearheaded by the Lee Myung-bak administration, lawmakers ensured that all paid workers would receive 100 percent of the minimum wage, 4,580 won per hour, and end exemptions that had allowed employers to pay less for certain occupations.

The revision did, however, allow an exemption for security guards out of concern that apartments would lay them off en masse when faced with higher paychecks. Instead, the Ministry of Employment and Labor allowed a five-year grace period, during which security guards, who would see their pay rise to 70 percent of the minimum wage, would make the full wage by 2012.

Not surprisingly, apartment complexes are opting to replace security guards with CCTV cameras and secure doors. Thus, as a result of the new increased minimum wage, upwards of 80,000 security guards may be soon find themselves without a paycheck.

Korea's minimum wage law is just the latest example of how well-intentioned legislation too often ends up hurting those whom it was supposed to help, in this case the poor and low-skilled workers at the bottom of the wage scale. It doesn't require an advanced mathematics degree to see that if the minimum wage is $10/hour, anyone whose hourly productivity is, say, $8/hour will be unemployable, as the employer would be losing money for every hour of that person's work. By contrast, if no minimum wage law existed, that employee would be employed and would likely earn about $8/hour, commensurate with her productivity.

Instead of signs calling for a $20/hour minimum wage, then, OWS protesters should carry signs reading "Increase the Unemployment Rate!"