[OUTLOOK]Clinging to optimismThe poet Kim Ji-ha’s made a confession, almost a monologue, in a radio interview a few months ago. It still rings in my heart. He said he regretted entering politics in the past and he should have spent his energy and time on his literary works instead of politics. His broadcast regrets have lingered for a long time.
The host of the program asked him about how he communicated with his son after he began his career in politics. He jokingly answered, “Our relations are as indifferent as a cow looking at chickens.”
I think he gained and also lost a lot of things from politics after resisting and protesting the suppression heaped on his people since the era of President Park Chung Hee.
With the legislative elections near, I recall the poet’s remorse because his comments on the journey of his life could be an important lesson to people who are thinking of politics or trying to enter it. He didn’t mention the dreams he wanted to make come true in politics, but he might have cherished an ideal that we could imagine.
The writer Lee Moon-yeol has recently begun to work as a member of the nominating review committee at the Grand National Party. He also seems to have been unable to suppress his strong desire to correct the political community, which is mired in the relentless criticism of the people. There is no knowing whether he will respond differently than Kim Ji-ha when he returns to his main career after the nominations are over.
We are attracted to their stories of politics, which the renowned poet and the novelist personally experienced and watched in different situations and ages, because we expect to see a glimpse of their frank and passionate personalities, their ideals and disappointments all at the same time, regardless of their particular ideologies. If we can replace uneasiness, suppression, conflict, and friction in our society with dialogue, cooperation, transparency, fairness, and balance, the world would become a truly good place to live.
We are tangled in chaos over means and methods, and the debate seems endless. We cannot think of or scarcely talk about the dreams Kim Ji-ha or Lee Moon-yeol may have cherished in their hearts. We are accustomed to a grim perspective and self-loathing. We could easily be treated as fools if we saw the future positively and had an optimistic point of view. When I meet old friends to talk, we used to say indignantly, “All politicians are thieves,” but we sometimes tone that down to say, “In fact, only half of them are thieves.” No wonder ― look at how many are behind bars now.
But if we think otherwise, half of them are not thieves. As the corruption of one party, stigmatized for receiving campaign funds in a truck, is uncovered and even aides to the president are under investigation, businessmen are almost universally regarded as criminals. But businessmen who gave political funds say they have changed. They demand transparency in politics and in the marketplace.
When we see the investigations into corruption scandals involving the former and current presidents, we think the world is ending. But foreigners think differently. Their response is that Korean democracy is surprisingly alive because it has the courage to send some of its former presidents to prison and to judge their sons without mercy.
The deterioration of the National Assembly and the powerlessness of the ruling and the opposition parties are waiting for the people’s judgment. In crisis, however, the Assembly should work beyond the level of the people. If we send “lions which do not eat corrupt meat” to the Assembly, they will be a driving force for the development of history.
We need to face up to the report from the Financial Times that “Korea has a great number of young, smart, and high-spirited businessmen.” In them, boundless energy is accumulated. If the people correct politics and politics can spark their energy to explode, that is all we want. If we abase ourselves too much, both our dreams and energy will vanish.
I hope we now can set ourselves free from this frame of self-torture so that we can achieve our dreams.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo