[VIEWPOINT]Political fighting does great harmIs it really impossible for us to live in a world where good people are involved in politics? Bad people have common points. First, they are unwilling to reveal their true colors. Second, when they are disadvantaged in power, they avoid a face-to-face confrontation and find a scapegoat. Third, if that is not enough, they go to the bitter end even at the risk of all lives concerned. The live-or-die power struggle not only has distorted our modern political history but it also has made us unaware of the nature of the fight.
If history developed in a rational manner, the end of the President Park Chung Hee era would have meant the start of democratization. But he instigated regional antagonism to brake the force of the fight for democracy.
At the end of President Kim Young-sam’s administration and the beginning of President Kim Dae-jung’s term in office, shouldn’t we have been able to fire a salute of guns for democratization? Regrettably, another distortion in history landed this country into the abyss of despair.
President Kim Dae-jung, the biggest victim of the military dictatorship, unreasonably wanted to receive a “young blood” transfusion while still embracing regionalism. Even then, no one expected as much conflict between generations as now. The “386” group was still a term to designate student activists for democratization.
In the Roh Moo-hyun era, the 386 group has become a “generation” and those “student activists” begin to form the core of the government. Political circles consecutively wield the term “generation change” as if it is their best weapon and berating the established generation as corrupt or incompetent. And they even yell, “Where were you when we were fighting for democratization?”
But, paradoxically, democratization has gone missing in the Roh Moo-hyun era. If that is unconvincing, compare the nine o’clock news of the past, which started with the features of President Chun Doo Hwan, to the news at present. How can we compare “image-making,” which borrows a little news time, to wholly fixing several programs to the president’s “code”?
At this point, we cannot but recall the Park Chung Hee era, which avoided direct confrontation with the democratization movement and took “regionalism” as a scapegoat. Why should we throw stones at the established generations who were not sent to prison but still took great pains for the democratization of their country, and who are to blame only for having done their best to raise children? Why do they have to be a scapegoat?
If the established generation is incompetent and corrupt, what can be expected when a President Kim in his 70s favors “young blood” in their 30s, jumping over a generation, without fostering the people just below his age? Why does the logic of the political field upset society?
Regional antagonism and then generational antagonism ― what antagonism will come next? The signs are already shown. It is the antagonism between men and women. As the issue has become inflated more than necessary and a main subject of people who have political ambitions, on one side, people who are afraid to mention it has begin to appear. Whether an incident will occur is as worrisome as when someone ignites a fire.
There are trends of world history that flow proudly. Authoritarianism submits to democratization, and democratization lets the politics of people’s livelihoods blossom. Thus a society in which people can live humanely may be built. For this purpose, the progressives and the conservatives fight each other. As the Yeongnam region cannot only be conservative and Honam progressive, old people cannot just be conservative and young people progressive. It is more unlikely that all men are conservative and all women are progressive.
What did we do wrong to prompt the battles over region, generation and women and men even when national security is threatened and the nation’s finances run out? In short, the conservatives regard production as important while the progressives take care of distribution.
To add to this, if nation is preferred to race, it is conservative, but if race is preferred to nation, it is progressive ―that is Korea’s current situation. Even in the midst of such fighting, good progressives and conservatives stop the squabbling when the country is at stake.
Now people should distinguish their colors well. We should not pointlessly thrust ourselves into the fighting scene they started, but instead we should find out who will be able to take care of our purse. We used to pay for educational expenses for children even by selling our land and house, but if things keep going this way, we might have to pay for their living expenses instead.
* The writer is a professor of politics at Kookmin University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Cho Choong-bin