As he sells his squid at the Jagalchi fish market in the southern port of Busan, Chang Ho-bin is happy to explain why he will be voting against South Korea’s ruling party in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. The 33-year-old fishmonger says the government has promoted policies that have helped big companies such as Samsung but driven up living costs for ordinary consumers who cannot afford to buy his squid, which costs Won45,000 ($40) a box, more than double its price from two years ago. “President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling conservatives did not manage the economy properly,” he grumbles as a woman nearby returns an escaping red octopus to its bucket. “They supported big conglomerates but forgot small business. Prices have got too high for people on lower incomes.”
Jagalchi market – a seemingly endless sprawl of tubs of spider crabs and eels – should be a bastion of the ruling conservatives who regard the south-east as their home territory. But while many fishmongers vowed to back the ruling party out of loyalty, an equal number felt it was betraying smaller companies such as fishmongers, fishermen and other seafood businesses that depend on them.
The complaints reflectKorea’s broader national problems. Faced with increasing competition from China, Seoul faces a conundrum in trying to reform inefficient small and medium-sized enterprises, which provide 90 per cent of the country’s jobs, without sparking higher unemployment which officially stands at about 4 per cent.
Full Article: High squid prices test S Korea’s politicians – FT.com.