[FOUNTAIN]This taboo word can help us allWhat could be called the biggest achievement of President Kim Dae-jung? Many would say overcoming the 1997 economic crisis. Yet even this was not a complete achievement, considering the enormous fiscal deficit and failed "big deals," as represented by the troubles of Hynix Semiconductor Inc. Even the glory of the Nobel Peace Prize Mr. Kim received has been blemished by the corruption scandals involving his family members and close aides and other allegations of misconduct surrounding his government. Mr. Kim's "sunshine policy" has lost its brilliance in the gloom of growing concern over North Korea.
The president does have one irrefutable achievement. Mr. Kim has helped the left emerge into a new light. He has helped open a new era in which the left, which had been in hiding all these years, has been able to come out in the open, proclaiming leftist ideas.
Although few people are as hostile towards leftist ideas as many were in the past, some taboos still remain. For instance, ppalgaengi, a word that means "one in red" in its literal sense but used to refer to communists in a familiar but none-too-friendly manner, still remains a forbidden word despite the masses of people donning red t-shirts during the World Cup. The recent verbal scuffle between President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's transition team and the Federation of Korean Industries indicates that "socialism" may still be on the taboo words list.
Many political parties in Europe uphold socialism under the new banner of "social democracy." Germany's constitution refers to a "democratic and social country." Kim Seok-joong, the executive director of the federation, also must have meant the word as it is used in Europe, when he used "socialism" in a recent remark that sparked friction with the transition team.
Germany achieved its post-war economic success under a "social market economy." This phrase was coined by Alfred Mueller-Armack in 1946. By it, he meant a market economy that is accompanied by social responsibility in which the vices of capitalism are atoned for through a social security network.
In this row over the meaning of the word "socialism," the transition team and the federation have shown that they do not possess the courage to say, "OK, it's a social market economy we want." An opportunity to widen our perspective in the discourse be-tween growth and distribution has gone wasted.
by Yoo Jae-sik
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.