[TODAY]In a political ‘Wonderland’A European ambassador in Seoul told me that he sometimes feels as if he is in “Alice’s Wonderland” when he watches Korean politics nowadays. At a tea party that Alice attends, guests speak meaningless words as they please and don’t listen to what others say. There are no conclusions or agreements. At a running competition, there is no starting point or starting signal. When they want to run, they run, and whenever they want to stop, they stop. And all runners are winners.
Korean politicians pour out demagoguery almost every day and are full of slander for their rivals. They use very low and mean words and talk in a violent manner.
The expression used by a politician that anyone who dares to pick a fight against his party and his president will certainly destroy his own family and ruin himself is one that suits a crime leader more than the leader of the ruling party. People in the political community don’t use their brains, but instead use abusive language. In that way, they don’t use a vocabulary that suits their status as politicians.
Chapter 1 of the Book of John in the New Testament starts, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Chinese version interprets “the Word” as “the Way.” Thus, the word or logos is the way, the road to truth and reason. But the words of Korean politicians are too light.
The Roman politician Cicero emphasized that the essence of oratory, an important tool for politics, lies in “ratio,” or reason. He said that wisdom is powerless without the skills of oratory, but eloquent speech without wisdom is useless. The demagoguery of our politicians who have lost their reason only brings pain to the people.
It was after the popularity of Park Geun-hye, the chairwoman of the Grand National Party, began to rise during the legislative elections last April that the language used in politics became emotional. The Blue House and the Uri Party opened fire on Park Geun-hye by trying to taint her image with the Yusin, or revitalizing reform, constitution that enabled her father’s prolonged dictatorship.
It is a strategy to win the presidential election in 2007 by killing former President Park Chung Hee one more time under the pretext of correcting the wrongdoings of history, and stigmatizing his daughter with the label of “the daughter of the Yusin dictatorship,” and “first lady of the Yusin regime.” In the meantime, the history of Goguryeo is being stolen by the Chinese and the history of Korea-Japan relations is somehow given over to the Japanese. What a tragicomedy we are in now!
We are not in an easy situation. The paradigm of our national security is changing with the realignment of the U.S. forces in Korea and their partial withdrawal. When the American forces in Korea are put under the command of the American forces in Japan, the security of Northeast Asia will be determined by the U.S.-Japan alliance.
The oil price threatens to rise over $50 a barrel, while the relocation of the capital fans regional conflicts. The troop dispatch to Iraq has become like a time bomb. If George W. Bush, who showed a flexible attitude on the North Korean nuclear issue because of the forthcoming presidential election, is reelected in November, his North Korea policy may return to a hard line stance again. Then, the six-way talks will run aground and the North may decide to keep its nuclear program. If this occurs, what will happen to our North Korea policy?
Where is the politics of cooperation that the leaders of the governing and opposition parties have agreed to? How can they explain the anomaly of our society where a political parody that sexually ridicules the opposition leader appears on the Internet homepage of the Blue House and a recommendation to the government to allow South Koreans to express their condolences on the 10th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s death is posted on the Web site run by the Government Information Agency? What does it mean that bundles of Korean money are flowing out of the country and providing a flourishing business to real estate agents in Los Angeles? Why is the Grand National Party being dragged around by the governing party, rather than producing solid policies on the North Korean nuclear issue, relocation of the capital and economic stagnation?
Do Mr. Roh and the Uri Party blindly believe in the dictum that the one who rules the past also rules the present? Do they plan to retain power for a prolonged period by riding roughshod their rivals and critics and by calling out the ghosts of the past? It is a miscalculation. When politics on the level of national power does not work, civil society’s alternative politics comes to the surface in the form of anti-politics. That was the case with the Eastern European countries in the 1980s, and the background of the Democratic Labor Party’s advance into the National Assembly.
Civic groups already exercise veto power on big issue. Are the Blue House and Uri Party sure that a certain measure of civic groups will remain as strong supporters of the government they helped to bring into being? People who came out on the streets for candlelight vigils would soon find out that they are the biggest victims of the absence of politics and the confused national administration.
We cannot stop people from starting the 2007 presidential campaign prematurely. But the Blue House and the politicians should have visions for the future and fight over policy matters. They must let the ghosts of the past rest in peace. If they continue to spoil the Korean language with mean words, the Korean Language and Literature Association and teachers and parents of primary school students might come out with candles in their hands.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie