[VIEWPOINT]Political generations need unityIs there any political difference between generations? In general, if people were born in a particular era, grew up in a similar political, social and economic environment and received a similar education, they will form comparable political views and eventually constitute a political generation that exhibits similar political behavior. Also, based on the life cycle, there is a tendency for people to change from being liberal when young to conservative as they get older.
Having said this, who constitutes the so-called “386 generation” in our society? This is a group of people who did not experience the Korean War and who spent their adolescence being ingrained with thorough patriotism and forcibly being impressed with the miracle of economic development under the Park Chung Hee regime. They became united by a passion to achieve democracy in Korea and finally attained their goal.
Unfortunately, they never received a proper education on democracy. As a result, while they are eager and confident to pursue democracy, they also seek political power to change the regime. This generation, which includes a group of people in their late 30s to mid-40s, supposedly possesses a progressive and reformist tendency. Therefore, the 386 political generation is a group of liberal, reform-minded people who are proud of having laid the cornerstones for democracy; who have a driving force, organizational capacity and passion, while feeling superior to the older generation and having a challenging spirit to experiment with reality.
These characteristics can guarantee promptness and boldness in carrying out reforms, while they have the probability of bringing about significant trial and error. The present administration, which champions the cause of reform and participation, may have appointed politicians from the 386 generation to major public positions because of these attributes. Because they shared the traits of reform-mindedness, challenging spirit and driving force, the politicians from the 386 generation may have achieved effective teamwork at the early stage of the new administration. But we have always been anxious about the possibility that we may end up facing unexpected results.
An accusation of “the 386 conspiracy” is widely talked about among the heavyweight politicians ― that a few Blue House aides from the 386 generation have recently conspired to expand political power. Before and after the presidential election last year, emphasis has been frequently put on the difference between the political generations in our society. This discussion led to the dichotomy of social constituents between the younger progressive group, defined as the winner, and the older conservative group, defined as the loser. And the latter group was frustrated by a sense of deprivation when it lost the ground to stand on.
In this situation, the recent behavior of the 386 generation politicians perhaps has given the older conservative generation, which had to keep silent, a chance to reverse the game. But the accusation of the 386 conspiracy is an extended application of this change by the older political group, which saw President Roh Moo-hyun’s improper, embarrassing re-marks about the younger politicians involved in corruption scandals as a generational conflict. By expanding personal problems to those of a particular group, the conservative group highlighted the generational conflict and came to instigate unnecessary social conflict. If this collectivistic generalization is frequently used by the political circle in the group-centered Korean society, and if the media take sides with this tendency, our society cannot but become fragmented in the long run.
Sharing common socioeconomic or inherent characteristics surely provides favorable conditions for “uniting.” But the fact that “uniting from our perspective” can be “picking sides from the other’s perspective” should be kept in mind. To effectively carry out its initial plans of a national administration, the present govermment may feel more comfortable working with its old pals who have common traits.
But, however effective the group may be, a country’s historic task cannot be achieved solely by a particular person or a particular political group. The new politics that our people want is not “winner take all” politics which advocates a particular group but one which embraces the diversity of social members and complements the political system all together.
In this respect, I hope that by sticking to his strong will as the head of the “participatory and reformist government” in the upcoming Blue House reshuffle, Mr. Roh will be able to clear up the misunderstanding that he advocates a particular person or group and stirs up unnecessary conflict between social groups.
* The writer is a professor of political science at Konkuk University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kwak Jin-young