[FORUM]A play on words, and capitalsI had a chance to talk with a ssireum wrestler who had just had a big match. When I asked him about his match history, he replied, “The first time, my opponent won. The second time, I failed to win. The third time, I tried to end it in a tie but the opponent wouldn’t let it happen.” This wrestler was a champion of words, if not in the ssireum ring. Avoiding the words, “I lost,” however, doesn’t mean one can avoid the fact. Sometimes such a play of words makes the listener tired ― as is often the case with our politicians.
I thought long and hard about what the difference could be between an “administrative capital” and an “administrative special city.” The governing party has come up with the idea of an “administrative special city” to deal with the Constitutional Court’s ruling that transferring the administrative capital would be unconstitutional. According to the floor leader of the Uri Party, an “administrative special city” would mean that we would transfer everything except the Blue House and the National Assembly. In its ruling, the Constitutional Court had said that the seat of the presidency was a defining element of the capital city. The Uri Party seems to have come up with this alternative of transferring the functions of the capital if not the titles in their obsession to pursue their transfer plan. The party’s proposal that we send the judiciary branch, including the Constitutional Court, to a new “administrative special city” makes one suspect the intelligence of these politicians who are supposed to lead this country. If this is for the sake of balancing out the regional development of the country, then indeed we could transfer what could be transferred. However, could it be an expression of its obstinate desire to settle everything its own way more than anything else that the government insists on pursuing this plan?
A “brave” National Assembly member has stepped forward to call the Constitutional Court’s ruling a “judiciary coup d’etat.” Is the Constitutional Court’s ruling that it goes against the Constitution of this country to transfer the capital city without due procedures indeed an act of treason equivalent to the military coups in 1961 and 1979 that overthrew civilian governments, as the legislator claims? If the Constitu-tional Court ignored the very Constitution which it is supposed to protect and uphold and attempted a coup d’etat, then the constitution would be invalid. Such constitution would not have to be heeded and therefore they could move the capital city without engaging in a bout of mudslinging in the National Assem-bly. No matter how ignorant a legislator is, he should really think about what he is saying. The legislator’s word is nothing more than a shabby attempt to drive the referee out, annul the match that they’ve just lost and start a new match that they are going to win. Is this the royalty competition of politicians who vie for the special favor of the president?
The “administrative special city” idea is still unsure. However, there is something that is more than sure and that is the “special recession.” Until now, President Roh has insisted that the Korean economy is not in a crisis and that the media was to blame for exaggerating the situation. However, in a recent interview with a TV station, the president said, “What we are experiencing now is not a normal recession but a special recession with a deep abyss.” I don’t now what the difference between a normal recession, a special recession and a crisis is. All I know is that even food business owners are railing in the street about the bad economy and that there is a sharp increase in the number of homeless people and children who go without meals. To tell these people that they shouldn’t worry because it is only a recession is irresponsible to say the least. Having food business owners out on the street is similar to the commoners’ revolts we had in history while the homeless people and hungry children are symbols of a famine. Revolts and famines in the past have always meant an impending change in the country leadership. I am not saying we should make the president confess that there is a crisis. However, if the government doesn’t admit a crisis just because it means that the government is surrendering to the media, instead trying to evade the term with an invincible “special recesson” speeches, the symptoms of the government’s obsession with victory are indeed quite serious.
A ssireum wrestler wrestling out of admitting his losses isn’t a national disaster. However, it is different with national policies. When the central bank cut the interest rates recently, the world media criticized the move as “going against the global trend.” Experts laughed at the central bank governor’s apology that he was sorry he had to make a decision different from the market’s expectations. It is not the rate that matters. It is the people’s mental state. The central bank knows this; what is it doing tinkering around with the interest rates? Is this because the government feels that this is not a crisis ― that this must not be a crisis? The government is now announcing that it will implement a Korean New Deal program starting the second half of next year. Why the second half? By a wild coincidence, there is no election next year, but a local one in 2006, a presidential one in 2007 and legislative in 2008.
The Korean economy is in a textbook case of recession caused by lack of investment and consumption. What we need is not a 0.25 percent cut in the interest rate but a 0.25 percent boost in the confidence of the people. What the people out on the streets, protesting, homeless and hungry, need is not a New Deal but a Now Deal ― Deal with it now!
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Joseph W. Chung