[OUTLOOK]Use your heads, not your heartsThere are several ominous signs in our society, and probably the worst is the widespread pessimism here. Koreans don’t seem to hesitate to say that there is no hope.
Where does that pessimism come from? It seems that our politics is being directed by our hearts, not by our heads. We need to use our heads ― to analyze coolly the trends in international politics so we can decide on what areas we should focus our attention. We should not use the sentimental judgements or the emotional prescriptions that our hearts hand us.
But our hearts rule us these days, and all Koreans seem to be under that influence.
This is not an age of conflict between the strong and the weak as it was in the early days of our industrialization or during the Japanese occupation, but it is an age of competition everywhere. Today, market principles are respected. The government should increase our competitiveness through strategic national administration; businesses should increase it through productivity improvements and political parties through policy development. Dividing our society into the strong and the weak and claiming that siding with the weak is social justice is anachronistic and hypocritical sentimentality.
Let’s take the United States and North Korea, for example. The former is the strong and the latter is the weak, and the United States, even though it possesses nuclear weapons itself, is unilaterally trying to put pressure on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. We may sympathize with North Korea as the underdogs and as belonging to our race, but that thinking is an attempt to understand the international community with the heart. The United States and the Soviet Union each had 20,000 to 30,000 nuclear weapons at one time, but agreed to a strategic arms treaty and have disposed of tens of thousands of them. Now the two countries have about 3,000 nuclear weapons each.
This was the result of their shared awareness that competition in nuclear weapons development would not only hamper their economic development but also that with more than 50,000 nuclear weapons in the world, all of mankind could be annihilated ten times over.
The United States and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals and have the right to talk about denying those weapons to others ― not because they are strong, but because they have set an example of restraint in nuclear weapons.
North Korea is weaker than South Korea in economic power. That was why the South paid all the expenses for North Korea’s participation in the recent university sports tournament in Daegu this year, clapping for the North’s players and cheerleaders. We welcomed them with all our hearts. But North Korea changed its mind several times over whether to participate or not, using meticulous calculations. Its dispatch of a party of beautiful young women as supporters certainly seemed to have a strategic purpose. In other words, North Korean officials decided to participate in the sports event based on an analysis made with their heads.
President Roh Moo-hyun has made many remarks about the press, and they suggest that he regards the media as powerful.
It is true that the media has a strong influence on society, but seeing it as a power center not as a critical part of our democracy is the result of his emotional sense of persecution. The history of journalism has been that of overcoming suppression by strong politicians, not that of a rein over the weak.
There are no policies or strategies in our political parties except those that are driven by the heart. Ruling party factions stir up hostility without any real reason. The opposition party talks about forcing out members who are either elderly or seen as representatives of “old politics,” calling that a reform. But that is puzzling, given that the chairman, whom they elected, has links with old politics himself.
Almost all the slogans, red headbands and chanting that fill the streets are expressions of emotion. But emotions are passing things that are seldom persuasive.
Everywhere you look, incomprehensible things are going on ― is there no hope for us? People compare the present situation with the confusion right after our liberation from the Japanese rule or the democracy movement of the 1980s or the financial crisis of 1997.
But we overcame all of those difficulties and achieved what we have today. We should be proud of that, and we can overcome our present pessimism or frustration as well.
The way to prevail lies in judging everything with the head instead of the heart. Doctors never tell critically ill patients that there is no hope for recovery, because such words themselves worsen their illnesses.
Also, there are many cases where patients can be cured with sugar pills. This “placebo effect,” as doctors call it, is a kind of psychotherapy. If we calm down and slow our heart rate about politics, economic activity and national sentiment, and begin to diagnose and prescribe with the head, we will be able to conquer today’s pessimism.
* The writer, a former minister without portfolio, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Dong-ik