[FORUM]The administration’s collaboratorsKoreans are no longer ashamed of being patronized by the government. The trend, which began with the group of scholars, religious leaders and social activists who joined the Kim Young-sam administration, became stronger in the Kim Dae-jung administration. In the Roh Moo-hyun administration, a horde of people work to please the government without hesitation. The phenomenon could be misinterpreted as being a result of social democratization because of the coincidental timing. In fact, it is not unrelated to the superficiality of society as a whole, a shadow that followed democratization.
The autocratic regimes in the past lacked legitimate roots, and in order to promote their legitimacy, they put scholars, journalists and religious leaders at the forefront. The government-patronized scholars, journalists, religious leaders and artists were included in the power structure or received financial assistance in return for collaborating with the military regimes. But they did not expect to win the hearts of their colleagues, students and friends, meaning they had a minimal amount of decency and sense of shame.
How about the government-pleasing group today? They appear on countless television and radio debate programs and enthusiastically praise the administration, yet they are not ashamed. They are even lower than the collaborators of the military regimes because they wish to get a free ride from democratization and pocket not only power and money but also honor. They pretend as if they are acting according to their convictions, and they are sometimes fooled by their own pretensions themselves.
Collaborators of the government, according to the dictionary, are those who cater to those in power, even by compromising their opinion and philosophy, for their personal gain. The word also means deceptiveness and sham. Therefore, those who are genuinely pro-government and progressive and act and speak according to their convictions are not to be blamed. It is not convincing to demand that scholars be completely noble and detached from worldly matters. However, when they work for the government against their opinion, and for their own interest, it is a shameful act of collaboration.
If a filmmaker who has been furiously opposing the reduction or abolition of the screen quota system suddenly changes his mind and becomes cozy with the government, or if a self-proclaimed conservative scholar has a change of heart and becomes a progressive, they are collaborators with no backbone. A writer who had begged the Chosun, JoongAng and Dong-a Ilbo to publish his article could be branded a collaborator if he suddenly emerged as the leading critic of the three major dailies in the Roh administration. The Internet media, which openly claimed to “do business by selling Roh Moo-hyun,” and the civic groups that lower their voices when the government announces policies that don’t comply with their beliefs are the same. They lack principle and opinion and flatter the government for their own interests.
All regimes want to have as many collaborators as possible in order to defend their power. It might be a characteristic of power. In the current administration, it is feared that many cultural leaders, artists and social groups have been tempted by the patronage.
The former members of the Korean People Artists Federation, the Association of Writers for National Literature and the Citizens’ Network for Cultural Reform have nearly dominated various culture and arts organizations. They are given the power to assign and exercise an enormous budget, and justify their actions by saying they are correcting the existing imbalance in arts and culture.
While civic groups might associate more with the current administration than any former ones, some are excessively friendly and flattering. They might find it a sweet deal for the moment, but they are bound to lose their foundation and viability. It would be too late to regret the collaboration once they are left with scars.
Flattering the government is always a disgrace. It is even more shameless to jump at power, money and honor while collaborating with the government. Moreover, justifying the disgraceful action is hopeless.
* The writer is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo