[FORUM]Economy demands attentionWe are tired, and now we understand. The majority of the citizens have come to realize the absurd logic of betrayal: The more an administration talks about working for the people, the more it makes people shed tears. We keenly realize the politics of irony that the more the administration champions equality, the bigger inequality it brings to us.
The Roh Moo-hyun Administration won the election victory by promising to “prioritize the people.” Mr. Roh accused opposition candidate Lee Hoi-chang as a spokesman for the privileged, upper class and hungry for power. However, such promises are now gloomy memories. The economy is worse than the time of the financial crisis, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor has become an indisputable fact.
Never in the history of the republic has the government neglected people’s livelihood more than today. Even under Chun Doo Hwan’s administration, which President Roh and his followers regard with contempt and deny its legitimacy, things didn’t go like this. President Chun used to visit the industrial fields and market places and encouraged the people. The key figures of the Roh administration now deride the former president, who took power through a military coup, for having tried to make up for the lack of legitimacy. However, most citizens are questioning them whether they qualify to condemn the former regimes. Both the Kim Yong-sam and Kim Dae-jung administrations advocated reforms all the time. However, when the reform efforts didn’t pay off or fell behind, they tried hard to boost the economy in order to appease the public.
Today, the number of households where both the father and son are jobless is increasing. The fathers are laid off from work, and the kids cannot find a job after graduating from college. The phenomenon is ruining middle class homes. Taxi drivers complain there aren’t enough customers, and the small and mid-sized companies and shop owners are desperately struggling for survival.
How come the livelihood of the people is so neglected by the Roh administration? Perhaps the power players in the government have strange tastes and peculiar passions. Maybe they have contributed little to the country’s growth to the $10,000 per-capita national income level and feel that making a living was easy. They went to college and searched for jobs during the economic boom of the 1980s and do not understand how the unemployed youth are struggling today. Under the glamorous banner of nation, self-reliance, re-evaluation of history, justice and peace, they might feel a sense of accomplishment from crooked causes and anachronistic avenge. Because of the destructive sense of class, they may feel that they can relieve the pain of the commoners by bullying the corporations and the rich.
What is certain is that reviving the economy has been pushed back in the administration’s priorities. Next year, the Roh administration will enter its third year, but the economy is still not the top concern.
The focus of the current administration is to overturn the society and change the mainstream. There are four pending bills that the ruling party wants to use as a means for social subversion. The National Security Law is distant from the daily lives of the people today for hardly anyone is prosecuted under the law. However, the utmost concern is to abolish the National Security Law. Many citizens worry that the private school bill would turn the supposedly clean ground of education into a battlefield of ideologies. The legislation to re-evaluate history might be an attempt to stir up historic legacies reaching back to the foundation of the republic.
Most citizens see through the hidden intention of the current administration. Many suspect that the ruling party and the Blue House are only interested in creating a legal and systematic framework to extend the rule. The citizens are trained from all kinds of social and political upheavals, and the administration won’t be able to hide its intention by packaging it with reform.
The public’s complaints are high, and the approval rating has long been hovering below 30 percent. If it were an autocratic regime, the currents of anti-government could turn into a protest rally. As the current government is a democratic one, things won’t develop that way, and the opposition has failed to be recognized as a trustworthy alternative. But the voice demanding the administration to stop playing with the people and start caring for the economy gets louder.
During his visit to Korean troops in Iraq, President Roh said that he was aware of the citizens’ expectations and pledged to do his best. The people want to believe that he has promised to help the livelihood of the Koreans. The question is whether President Roh will keep his promise.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of political news of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyoon