[OUTLOOK]Remember true Korean valuesThe economy is still struggling at the bottom of the barrel, but oil prices are skyrocketing and the little money that Koreans earn is all being paid in taxes. There is no recognition or benefits for those who pay taxes. It rather seems like the people who do not pay taxes at all have even bigger voices than those who pay taxes. Taxpayers have been angry for a long time because they cannot see exactly where their tax money is going.
That’s not all. Recently, Korea became a country where owning a house is a sin and having a fortune is a shackle, and it has become virtually impossible for rich people to become candidates for high-ranking government jobs. The Republic of Korea is a country that runs on tax money. We will have a future only if there are more people who pay taxes proudly as their living conditions improve and those who pay more in taxes get equivalently better treatment the more they pay.
Reality, however, is different. There are no benefits for those who pay more taxes by increasing their fortune through hard work. A social atmosphere is being created in which wealthy people are forced to feel burdened by their wealth, while others are induced to the direction that those who do not work hard and thus are not obliged to pay taxes can simply get by. Who would want to pay taxes in such a country? This is the first reason why Korea is getting sick.
In addition, the National Assem-bly’s inspection of the government, which is supposed to look into whether or not our precious taxes are being spent well, has started with a useless word game over who cursed at a female bar owner. And then the attention of the politicians has focused on the management of a certain business conglomerate, Samsung Group ―making it not a government inspection but rather an inspection of Samsung Group. Samsung, which was once called the “Republic of Samsung” and seemed like an almighty power in the country, has suddenly become an object of attack from all sides. The reality of Korea is that Samsung, which was supposed to make a living for the whole country, is now being treated like a useless dog.
I would like to ask whether the National Assembly should investigate Samsung, a company that does more work overseas than it does at home, and whether it has to summon busy working people one after another to interrogate them as if they are criminals. All that the National Assembly needs to do about the Samsung problem is to take care of it strictly according to the laws made by the Assembly. There is no need to stir up public sentiment and put Samsung on trial in the court of public opinion.
The pending problem of the Republic of Korea is not Samsung. The most important problem is reviving the economy, which now is facing problems from the premature aging of Korean society, as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned. If the economy revives, people will recover the will to work hard; businessmen will find a reason to run their businesses and soldiers will have clear justification for defending the nation.
However, the second reason that the Republic of Korea is staggering is because it is unable to give people a reason to work, run a business or defend the country.
Moreover, the sudden move to shake the foundation of the republic, that started with the controversy over the statue of General Douglas MacArthur at Freedom Park in Incheon, continues to move ahead, relying on the unworthy words of Kang Jeong-gu, a Dongguk Univer-sity professor, as if competing in a loyalty competition to the North Korean leadership on the North’s Workers’ Party foundation day. Mr. Kang’s political beliefs were revealed when he said a few years ago that we should honor and follow the spirit of Mankyongdae ― the birthplace of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. But the bigger problem lies in the attitude of our society that tolerates his words and even invites him to give lectures. This made him feel confident of himself and even threaten to file a lawsuit at the United Nations if the government took legal measures against him. This, of course, means that South Korea has become a weak and ridiculous country.
In the real world, where watching the “Arirang” mass game in which 100,000 North Koreans are mobilized is a compulsory tour course for South Koreans who visit Pyongyang, South Koreans are naively exposed to the psychological warfare of North Korea, only debating whether the soldiers being “massacred” in the game are South Korean troops or not. Amid such a confusing situation, the government proclaimed that it would repatriate North Korean prisoners who were imprisoned for a prolonged period of time due to their refusal to renounce communism. However, it fails to speak up for the repatriation of South Koreans who were taken to the North by force and for South Korean prisoners of war in the North. This is the third reason why South Korea looks like an empty shell, devoid of content.
The reason why South Korea is sick, staggering and looks like an empty shell is because South Koreans have forgotten the core values of the republic. The core values of the Republic of Korea are freedom, democracy and a market economy. There would be no Republic of Korea if we had no faith in these core values. Now is the time for the Republic of Korea to wake up.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong