[FORUM]Searching for code of the timesHe read the ”code,” or spirit, of the time well, so he was able to seize power and put people who shared the same feelings in battle formation. But why are things going wrong over and over again? This is because the first so-called code was an emotional outpouring centered on the younger generation, the second was a shaky ideological code championed by inexperienced people. The third is a realistic code required by the times.
People still talk about a code, but it is a pity that many of them still mistake their own code for the code of the times. They should first read the code of the times and then make adjustments, not vice versa.
Such a clash of codes is well expressed in the Republic of Korea’s cheering in one voice for the 2002 World Cup. But the shouting of “Dae-han-min-guk,” Republic of Korea, may sound cynically as denoting a nation run by those who insist on their group’s interest. People elected Roh Moo-hyun, expecting that he would fit into their code, or he appealed to them, expecting that they would understand his code, but such expectations turned out to be totally wrong.
In fact, this is not a discord of codes or ideologies, but a learning process in which we directly experience and realize a hard fact: “Getting elected and governing are different.”
Brazil’s President Lula (Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) learned this fact quickly. But although we are again paying a high price to learn a lesson, we still do not understand properly. The more quickly we learn, the better.
There is one code or signal that was wrong at its very inception. It was called “distribution,” one of the important codes of the Roh administration. There could not be any particular solution to the problem of distribution in a country where the per capita national income had stalled at around $10,000 for eight consecutive years. Moreover, economic growth continues to fall and, as various statistics show, the distribution (of wealth) is getting worse.
The surest victim of low growth is the poor. Under these circumstances, the surest distribution policy is to raise growth potential. And considering our reality, the surest way to distribute wealth is to reduce the burden of educational and housing expenses.
The code should be directed to these matters. But the current government does not put its priority on economic affairs. Instead, it chose “balance of power.” This is why labor-management relations are unstable, and the deputy prime minister of finance and economy and other ministers lack power to implement policies.
At no other time has an economic team faced such difficulty in carrying out its job. The code needed today is growth and economy. This is even more so with a legislative election coming up next year. Recently, the government has wished that the huge amount of money in circulation would flow from real estate to the stock market. The government’s wish, however sincere, will not materialize as long as it adheres to the wrong code.
There is, however, a code which the government corrected quickly. During his visit to Japan, President Roh Moo-hyun displayed his ability to quickly adapt to the code of international society once again. There still remains the problem of what he gained from his visits to the United States and Japan, but it is more important for Mr. Roh to maintain consistency in the post-visits environment. Nothing would have been more fatal than for him to have reversed what he said abroad when he returned to Korea.
Some people say his visits to the United States and Japan were humiliating or a betrayal, but their criticisms are the results of their having misread the code of the international community. Truly outstanding was Mr. Roh’s ability to learn quickly. A civil rights lawyer from Busan, he was unexpectedly elected president thanks to his sharing the ideas of the so-called 386 generation and quickly learning their code. But that code cannot be the code of the chief executive of a country.
Everyone still talks about codes but the most important code is the code of the present times. We should first determine the realistic code that our era requires and then find our own code based on that. We should read the international code and the domestic code. In this uncertain age, we can easily mistake our own code for the code of the times.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Su-gil