[OUTLOOK]No one has monopoly on valuesAttempts at monopolizing popular values can be frequently seen even among political factions in a society where the democratic decision-making process and system are rooted to a certain degree. There is a tendency to monopolize an ideology or policy that is useful in winning over the masses so that one can beat one’s opponent in the struggle for power.
Even in such cases, however, there are bound to be certain rules and standards in the process of combining various ideologies and policies.
The most important standard would be whether the ideology or policy is in harmony or contradiction with one’s own ideologies and policies. Some match seamlessly, but others are so different that their combination doesn’t make sense.
For example, no matter how popular they might be among people, socialism and the policy of guaranteeing private property rights don’t go together. It would also be difficult, in a country with strong right-wing tendencies, to combine the left wing with conservatism.
In the 20th century, however, there emerged a tendency of merging disparate ideologies and policies together regardless of whether they are in harmony or in contradiction. In one country, the rightist military regime joined forces with the left-leaning labor unions, and in another country, an authoritarian regime maintained power by linking itself with leftists’ demands for equal distribution and consideration for the poor. In most cases, such combinations resulted in the fast breakdown of the country’s economy and the people’s minds. This form of politics is known as populism.
I think the politicians who lead our society are accused of relying on populism because of the discrepancy and inconsistency that they exhibit while they try to monopolize popular values. They give the impression of pandering to the public and integrating all the popular issues in their political principles.
The opposition parties are guilty of this as well. It might have been an inevitable choice for them at a time when they were gearing up for the presidential election.
Although it has been more than seven years since the democracy forces took power, the attempts at monopolizing social values, which has been the cause of political contradictions, still continue. The satellite groups of the governing Uri Party, which are disguised as civic organizations, still believe that their ideologies and policies are all good, and they use abusive languages, bordering on outrage, in describing others with whom they don’t want to share the same values. In some ways, it seems that the governing party is forcing the opposition to play the role of the bad guy.
People say that nationalism is an ideology that has already been discarded by the left wing and progressive intellectuals of the West. A genealogy of ideology that is more familiar to us is conservatism: right-wing to nationalism to fascism to ultra-nationalism. Yet, the progressive forces of Korea that call themselves the apostles of reform capitalize on all nationalistic advantages in this country ― not only the emotions of the people that were provoked by the death of two middle school girls by a U.S. Army vehicle, but also the ultra-nationalistic football fever that peaked during the 2002 World Cup in Seoul.
Nowadays, most of the debates in the yellow papers that these people circulate through all corners of the Internet sound like bickering: that they have the monopolistic right over nationalism and the effect of that monopoly should be theirs only. When the debate touches upon two recent political agendas that are closely linked to nationalism ― the unification policy and pro-Japanese collaborators ― these people get extremely cliquish and fierce.
Naturally, during debates they portray themselves as unification’s only supporters who are entitled to discuss the topic, and they portray their enemies as being against unification and being leaders of an anti-unification movement. If the people the progressives regard as enemies talk of unification, they get upset and attack, saying, “How dare you talk about unification?” regardless of whether the speaker was right or wrong.
It’s even worse regarding the pro-Japanese issue. If a person they see as an extreme right-wing conservative expresses anti-Japanese emotions in the Dokdo dispute, progressives get even angrier at them than they do at the Japanese. It seems that they are angry because the conservatives, who should of course be pro-Japanese in their eyes, dared to express anti-Japanese sentiments.
They’re angry because their opponents are trying to claim the same values that the progressives have claimed as their own.
I understand their desire to keep whatever advantages they have to themselves. But, children, that is not how the world works, nor should it work that way.
The best things belong to us all. Nobody can say that the blood that runs in our body and the love and desire to protect the land where our ancestors have lived for generations are exclusive to one group.
* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Moon-yeol