Korea Society convoqued its general membership to gather and hear a 'blue ribbon panel' comment on the following topic: 'After the G20: Issues & Outlook'.
Its members could have spared the trouble to plunk down us$20 or us$30 for salty beef,sticky rice, some kimchi, and three meagre slice of lotus root. They would have had more substance to chew on if they had read the 'Financial Times of London' or the 'New York Times' or the 'Wall Street Journal'.
The format of the meeting was pretty typical. On the dais of the Samsung conference room sat the moderator former ambassador Thomas Hubbard who is now senior director at McLarty Associates and chairman of the Korea Society. To his right ambassador Kim Young mok ROK consul general in New York, William Rhodes senior advisor to Citigroup and advisor to the Lee Myung bek government, and James Glassman managing director and senior economist at JPMorgan Chase. They all attended the G20 in Seoul.
Facing them a sea of some 60 Koreans, Korean Americans, and Americans and a lone British. They represented the financial, business, and the media to a large measure.
The presentation had free flow of ideas which Plato would easily recognise as an 'idea of self'. It had the feeling that the panel was trying to smooth out the crumpled lack of a clear direction that came out of the G20.
The participants also spoke of the empty bags that president Obama returned with from Seoul. Not only did he not find 'common ground' on the US Federal Reserves' 'quantative easing', but he failed to get South Korea to sign the long awaited and hoped for FTA [Free Trade Agreement].
Among the panel reigned the spirit of a self admiration society. So the audience was regaled with agreement on principles and a long term strategy to elaborate a plan of action and monetary reform. In other words, there was a large element of play acting.
The quality of the speakers' accounts of the G20 would hardly rate a passing garade in Economics 101. It could only be defended by the true believers and the credulous.
Let's cut to the chase of the 'substance' of the Korean Society lunch hour meeting:
it is an open secret that the two bankers and two ambassadors preached the gospel that the private sector will save us all. For business now has the certainty and the self assurance to dig the world out of a global recession. [Read: the high rate of savings in east Asia must needs be tapped for rescue the US.]
The fly in this ointment is that it was a government bailout which narrowly saved the banks from complete collapse and restore a degree of muscle to global finance.
Needless to say, this salient point was hardly bruited. In fact, the two US bankers haughty dismissed the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke as a mere professor who had little understanding of finance and economics.
Ambassador Kim held his fire the more especially of the strong role of the South Korean government in the economy and with which its liberal hand distributes tax breaks and give aways to Korea's business and banking community.
It was not a stretch for Rhodes and Glassman to urge an extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the rich and the tiresome mantra to the restoration of a more right conservative economic orientation.
They argued for coherence and private authority. They never for once took responsability for the disastrous policy that finance capitalists like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase,visited on the world, thereby triggering the serious world recession. That was ancient history and with a wave of a magician's wand, they tried to transorm a crisis of finance capitalism into a crisis that government policy occasioned.
The discussion on the FTA was brief. Ambassador Kim was diplomatic in not reminding the audience that the US had tried to weasel out of agreed terms, and hence Mr. Obama's returning home empty handed. Rhodes and Glassman skated over this annoying fact, with a certainty that within a short time the ink would dry at the bottom of the FDA.
During the Q&A session, no Korean asked a question. It feel to a group of bankers who knew the panelists. Their questions lacked punch; they were lobbed for easy answers.
Judging by the journalists eyes, no one was fooled by viewing 75 minutes of a B film.