[INSIGHT]Medicine for two illnessesThe situation in state affairs continues to be dark. The government, which used to deny that there was an economic crisis and assured us of 5-percent economic growth, finally said, “The possibility of 5 percent growth is very slim.”
The so-called Korean New Deal policy announced to save the economy once and for all is surrounded by opposition on every side, and the health minister, who runs the national pension fund, opposes the president’s suggestion that the managerial rights of major businesses be defended with pension funds.
On the very next day after the president made remarks praising the patriotism of Korean businesses, the governing party passed a bill that would bind the hands of those businesses.
Political strife goes on every day and vulgar, rude and loose talk is rampant. There is no sign of hope and optimism in any aspect of the operation of the state affairs. The economy, in its own way, and politics, in its own way, do not give any belief and hope to the people. Education has now become a source of despair.
What brought this situation on? Until now, there has been much criticism of and advice given to the administration. There have also been numerous remedies proposed and counsel given: Do not engage in “code” politics; do not divide the people into sides; do not speak whatever is on your mind; and respect the Constitution. But nothing was effective.
But one year and nine months of experience seems to have made one thing clear: The government is now suffering two kinds of serious illness. Some have believed so far that the present situation in national administration was caused by trial and error, liberal ideology or excessive ideals, and there have been such interpretations too. But now I believe firmly that the fundamental causes lie in two kinds of illness.
One illness is lack of ability. The extremely low level of administrative and political ability of the present administration has been revealed over the past 21 months. Even if the administration had good intentions or set good goals, it lacks the ability to create an environment to achieve goals or to carry out a policy. The recent real estate policy and the much-criticized Korean New Deal policy prove this point. The special law to prohibit the sex trade had a good goal but its ineffective means aggravated the situation of the women that the law had intended to protect, eventually turning them into violent opponent forces.
In particular, it is hard to find political capability, skillfulness and maturity that makes a policy agreeable and effective by holding a dialogue with the opposition parties and persuading those of opposing opinions. Isn’t this the case with the implementation of the so-called four reform bills?
The governing party usually counterattacks its critics with such words as “conservatives” or “thoughts of the Cold War,” but inability cannot be rationalized with ideology. Inability to do its job can never mean being progressive. The liberals should have excellence, efficiency and achievements of their own to deserve high marks, and incompetence and tactlessness cannot be justified as being progressive.
If today’s economic recession and the uneasiness of the people are due to liberalism, that kind of liberalism is a bad one and a shame to genuine liberalism.
The other illness is lack of trust. Despite its denials, the administration is constantly called into question about being pro-North Korean and anti-American, or anti-market and anti-business or pursuing distribution rather than growth. The administration has been unable to offer either convincing explanations or performance to clear up such doubts. The distrust of diplomacy and security is also serious. Concern over whether the South Korea-U.S. alliance can be repaired does not disappear. Few people believe the government’s announcements about the holes in the wire fences along the Demilitarized Zone. In this situation of a lack of trust, there can be no driving force for implementing policy and there can be no grounds for public confidence in the government and the leadership of leaders.
Besides, there seems to be little trust in the human aspect of the governing circles. Because leaders could not show leader-like words and deeds, responsibility, dignity, etiquette, cultivation and examples, they receive no respect, trust or affection that should accompany leaders to a certain degree. They often caused problems by talking at random and being frivolous and impolite. Such distrust of human beings is sure to lead to a distrust of policy and the administration.
These two kinds of illness called lack of ability and lack of trust are, in fact, like the head and tail sides of a coin. Lack of ability decreases trust. Lack of trust cannot make things work. When jobs are done well, trust can be created, and when there is trust, jobs can be carried out well.
If there is an illness, it should be treated. The elements that are lacking should be added as soon as possible. By whatever means, either by listening to others’ advice or by changing people, the lacking elements should be made up for.
The past two years aside, I hope the administration will open its eyes in some way for the sake of the remaining three years.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok