[FOUNTAIN]An opportunity to end collusionThe cozy relationship between politics and business is referred to as yu-chak, or adhesion in Korean. The Chinese character for “chak” originates from a liquor jug in the ancient Shang Dynasty.
The jug had no legs and was put directly on the floor. When the jug was full of wine, even the strongest man could not lift it. Thus, the Chinese character for the jug began to refer to something that is hard to separate. The Chinese character for “yu” literally means “being healed.” Thus, yu-chak would mean “strongly adhesive after being healed.” If you twist the definition a little, it means “making a morbid bond after a tension is resolved.” Now we know why the cozy relationship between politicians and businessmen is called yu-chak.
It is easy to find examples of yu-chak in Eastern and Western history. The ancient Chinese historian Ssu Ma Chien had a point when he said, “a man who has 1,000 gold pieces would face the governor and a man who accumulates 10,000 gold pieces would level with the emperor.” Rich men would use their wealth as an adhesive to partner with influential politicians, and powerful political figures would use their clout to forge a bond with businessmen. Both sides are seeking personal interest and wealth by holding hands.
In the early 1960s, it meant entirely different things in Korea and Japan. Japanese media frequently mentioned the cozy relationship between politicians and businessmen of the two neighbors after Seoul and Tokyo signed a normalization agreement. When the Korean market was booming with the large amount of compensation Japan paid for property claims during occupation and yen loans from Japan, Japanese companies lobbied their politicians to bargain with their Korean counterparts to grant them business rights in Korea. As a result, the evils of Japanese plutocracy and factionalism that enabled the Liberal Democratic Party’s long-term reign were imported to Korea.
The investigation into the slush fund scandal involving SK Group revealed the back-door transactions between businessmen and politicians, and brought talk of a national referendum on the president’s leadership. The vote of confidence might prove to be a perfect opportunity to sever the endless cycle of yu-chak that has become a chronic disease as the country went through autocratic military regimes and rapid economic development.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.