[FORUM]Learning the right lessonsThe leadership group in South Korea after liberation in 1945 has been the pro-American group. Of course, right after the establishment of the South Korean government some pro-Japanese people were appointed to important government posts, as a desperate alternative choice, because there was a lack of talented people at that time. However, the group that led the development of South Korea was the pro-Americans. Soldiers, politicians, businessmen and scholars who studied in America became the leaders in each field after the 1960s.
Naturally, learning about America became popular. Scholars taught American ideology and systems, and corporations embraced the capitalism of America. That is why American values, such as free democracy, a market economy, rationalism and utilitarianism came to be at the top of our value system. In other words, America was like an absolute good to us.
However, there have been signs of change in this composition recently. Along with the spread of anti-American emotions, new tendencies of trying to oust not just America but even American values are starting to appear. This does not mean that the gigantic political-economic-academic complex that the pro-American group constructed has broken. A doctorate from the United States is still more welcome and useful than a doctorate from any other foreign country. Even though people complain about the United States, they still send their children to study there because the American system is still valid.
The left wing, which is playing the new leading role in our society, has a tendency to learn from Europe, instead of the United States. In particular, I feel that the tendency to learn from Germany seems strong. The various road maps or policies, that this government has presented, give us a glance into this trend. Indeed, it is about time for us to turn our eyes to Germany, where social justice and the equal distribution of wealth have been somewhat successfully implemented, at least to overcome the contradiction that we followed in the footsteps of American capitalism that is dubbed as “plundering.”
The German political-economic-social system is usually referred to as a “socialistic market economy.” Things have changed a little nowadays, but German laborers still work the fewest hours in the world, get paid the most, and have the longest vacations. In other words, Germany is a worker’s heaven. From the point of view of the left wing, which emphasizes the rights and interests of workers, there is no better model for it.
It is not just the labor-management issue. The system of having two votes per person, which was first introduced in the last legislative elections, is also a purely German system. The decentralization of authority to local governments and the transfer of the capital, which the current government is pursuing with all its energy, is clear evidence of following the German example.
Needless to say, this is not the first time we have tried to follow Germany. Former President Park Chung Hee wanted to make a miracle on the Han River, just as Germany accomplished the miracle of the Rhine from the ashes of a war it had lost. He planned the Saemaul, or new community movement, after seeing the well-to-do farms of Germany, and constructed expressways after seeing the autobahn.
Former President Kim Dae-jung also tried to learn the secrets of German reunification. The historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 benefitted greatly from the experience between East and West Germany.
The two former presidents tried to learn mainly about economic development and national reunification. However, it strikes me that the current government is trying to learn from Germany in almost everything. That is why I say to them, if they want to learn from Germany, they have to learn about that country properly.
I ask them not to follow in the footsteps of the two former presidents, who learned about economic development but neglected democracy and provided economic aid to North Korea but failed to relate it to the North Korean human rights problem as Germany did.
Especially, the transfer of the capital, that is under debate now, belongs to such examples. The German legislature decided to transfer the capital from Bonn to Berlin mainly because Berlin has many aspects that coincide with the future image of Germany. We have to seriously consider which is the most suitable location for the capital for the future of our nation, which is awaiting national reunification.
Germany’s examples also show us a lot about the problem of suspicious deaths. Former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who provided the foundation for the unification of Germany, resigned immediately after it was revealed that his secretary was an East German secret agent.
If anyone is found to have worked as an agent of the former East German secret police, the Stasi, he is expelled from German society, even though 14 years have passed since the unification of Germany. In Germany, having a former secret agent investigating an army commander is unthinkable.
* The writer is the deputy managing editor in charge of culture news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik