[INSIGHT]It’s time to cool downAt the end of a long, hot summer, let’s take some time to look back on this year. The new year began with the controversy over holding a referendum concerning a vote of confidence on President Roh Moo-hyun, which had been carried over from the previous year. After the presidential impeachment proposal by the opposition parties passed in March, legislative elections were held in April amid the impeachment situation, and the governing party surged to the desired majority in the National Assembly. Amid all this, the investigation into illegal campaign funds continued. The people had been troubled and divided over the positives and negatives of the vote of confidence, the national referendum, and the presidential impeachment for over half a year.
As the Constitutional Court decided against the impeachment proposal in May, the president was freed from the 63-day suspension from his duty and resumed his presidency. At that time, all expected that they could then lead a quiet life and that they would enter an age when the government, businesses and the people all participated in efforts to save the economy and create jobs.
But then, as the plan to move the administrative capital was announced, the latent controversy over the capital transfer erupted again. Subsequently, the controversy over history, followed by the issue of the abolition of the National Security Law, left the country in confusion as if the entire population had to solve multiple choice problems to set history right. They seem forced to make too simple choices out of too difficult questions on whether to move the capital or not, whether to disclose pro-Japanese collaborations or oppose the idea, and whether to abolish or revise the National Security Law.
Why does the government, or politics, force the people to take this test? If he does not want to consolidate forces through conflict and division, the president would not come forward to impose such a trial on the people. Why is the president so boisterously taking the lead in putting problems that should be solved quietly and rationally, not by division and controversy, on the national agenda and daring to take the political risk of concluding that he has the right answer?
He should not doggedly pursue the transfer of the administrative capital, advocating his campaign pledge and the passage of the related law. All the people know that the passage of the bill was the result of collusion born of the shallow campaign strategies of the political community. Who can guarantee that the new administrative capital with a site that can accommodate 500,000 people would diffuse the overcrowded population in the Seoul metropolitan area and ensure balanced national development? This is a long-term national task that requires national consensus and alternatives.
The issue of historical inquiry will be solved when historians and related experts take enough time to collect and interpret material to publish a complete white paper on the matter.
The National Security Law does have scope for misuses that go against the age of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation. But North Korea still cannot be trusted enough for us to abolish the security law completely. It would be rational to seek a compromise by comparing the revision bill and alternative bills instead of a direct confrontation between the complete abolition of the law and desperate opposition to its abolition.
The relationship of growth and distribution in a market economy is not confrontational but complementary. As for the problem of inter-Korean relations, national and international cooperation cannot be achieved one-sidedly. It is not a matter of choosing the wrong or the right side but one of cooperation and complementarity. It is a matter in which the answers from both sides, not one side alone, may be correct, or in which the problem should be solved step by step.
In his recent book, “The Politics of the Middle Way,” published by Nanam Publishing House, Choi Sang-yong, a professor at Korea University, emphasized that moderation is the “best possible” resolution that is chosen to fit the situation among various possibilities between the worst and the best. Unlike religions that assume the transcendental best, he saw “political moderation” as the wisdom to overcome the difficult situation of this age.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula after the Cold War should move in the direction of achieving national unity, national reconciliation and international cooperation through the conservatives’ self-reform and the liberals’ escape from radicalism while avoiding ideological polarization within the larger framework called democracy and the market economy. This is the road to coexistence and unity.
But where are we headed now? Aren’t we preoccupied with a self-righteous dichotomy that this alone is the best? The essence of the philosophy of the middle way is to pursue moderation best suited for the time and situation.
That is, moderation should fit the situation. Moreover, political moderation is negotiation and compromise. It is time to engage in politics that makes the people comfortable and seeks the best possible option with dynamic balance at some times, with creative compromise at other times, and with constructive negotiation at still other times.
Autumn is close at hand. We should cool down and think calmly again about what we should do for tomorrow, not yesterday, for unity, not conflict, and for progress, not regression.
* The writer is the executive editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Young-bin