Park Chung Hee NostalgiaWe Hope for Leadership Sweating Blood to Revive Our Country
There is no work. The unemployment rate will go up even more next spring. Politicians are corrupt and fail to manage the economy. When the people worry, they stop buying. Apartment prices have dropped by 10 percent. People seem to be in a trap of pessimism that is blocking the economy.
Moreover, the line of emigrants at the U.S. Embassy is getting longer all the time. Which country is this?
The New York Times recently reported the hopeless condition of Argentina, a South American country that is known as the home of Peronism, a synonym for populism. We are extremely surprised that the current condition of Korea is a replica of Argentina. Peronists have ruled Argentina for more than 10 years since the authoritarian military regime turned over the reins of government to a civilian administration in 1983. Although a new administration started to fight for democratization and reform last year, nothing has changed and the Argentines are leaving the country with no hope in its economy.
"Many older Argentines said the optimism they felt when civilians replaced the military government in 1983 has long since wilted, and some even talk longingly of a return to authoritarianism," The New York Times reported.
Let''s look closely into our current condition. By any chance, are we hoping for a return to authoritarianism because we no longer have hope and corruption has worsened? Or are we slowly giving up our country because law has been collapsed and we have no hope in fair personnel changes in officialdom?
No one has suggested a return to authoritarianism, because the scars left by dictatorship were too deep to be healed. However, I can sense the hope of a return to authoritarianism somewhere in the innermost recesses of our society. A former president affiliated with the military has openly criticized the democratization group, arguing that nothing has been done since the two main figures of the democratization group have served as presidents.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. Now, we have to look into the recent fever of Park Chung Hee nostalgia. A while ago, the House Steering Committee of the National Assembly approved a commemoration project for former president Park Chung Hee. Surprisingly, the honorary chairman of the project was President Kim Dae-jung. No matter how hard I try to connect former president Park and the current leader of the ruling party, there seems to be not much of a link. Then why is Mr. Kim taking the initiative in pushing the plan?
The opposition party is no different. The opposition leader does his best to curry favor with the vice president of the party, who is also the daughter of former president Park. Why is that? Where does her influence come from? The answer is simple: Nostalgia for Mr. Park has spread in our society.
We remember two contrary faces of Mr. Park during his presidency. One is the face of a dictator in a military uniform, a man who amended the constitution to allow a lifelong seizure of power. The other is the face of a president putting out his best efforts to relieve our country of poverty. We are not feeling nostalgic toward the scary face of a dictator, but we miss the face of a president who sweated blood to rescue our country from poverty. That is the true nature of the recent nostalgia for Park Chung Hee.
Then, will leading the commemoration project for Mr. Park or winning the favor of Mr. Park''s daughter guarantee that someone becomes a successful leader like Mr. Park? Right now, the people earnestly hope that the current president or the opposition party leader has a vision and will sweat blood to revive our country from crisis, just as Mr. Park did.
However, the president and the opposition leader concentrate on symbolic gestures. While the people hope that our leaders see the sun, politicians are only focusing on the finger pointing at the sun.
The writer is the Washington Bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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