[OUTLOOK]Who’s fooling whom?Two years ago, the progressive host of an Internet portal that favored by the Roh Moo-hyun administration said, “People can make a living for the following 10 years without a problem if they use reform as a marketing tool.” Looking at the social atmosphere at that time, the remark sounded possible.
However, things have changed after only two years. We do not even need to mention the results of the last local elections and by-elections. Looking at public opinion these days, talking of progress or reforms for the next election is like political suicide. Some politicians who have realized this are already visiting businessmen and shouting about reviving the economy.
The words “reform” and “progress” usually convey good meanings. But these words are now treated as bad because the administration entered office by “selling reforms,” as the progressive writer said, and then revealed radicalism, arrogance, incompetence and confusion. Academically, it is unclear whether all of the policies by the current administration are progressive or aimed at reform.
However, in the eyes of the public, the administration is basically the same as reform forces, progressive forces, left-wing forces and former student activists.
If you talk with progressive people, you will find they are often innocent and have a strong sense of justice. Their strengths are in resistance and criticism. But they are not good at figuring out how things work in reality or designing government measures, because they indulge deeply in ideologies and in great causes. They have warm hearts but do not have cold brains. They want wealth to be redistributed so the poor can be better off. They have done as the poor wanted, but the gap between the rich and the poor has only widened.
Progressive people certainly contribute to the diversity of society and more balanced public opinion. Their voices back the government’s stance on international negotiations, such as negotiations for a free trade accord with the United States. However, these people’s arguments function in a good way only when they remain a minority group that bears no responsibility, but acts to alert and warn society. When former student activists with immature perceptions of reality and radical thoughts take the wheel, totally opposite results seem to emerge. This was the starting point of the problems that Korean society has suffered for the last three-and-a-half years.
Progressive and left-wing forces have lost the trust of the public partly because of their attitude toward the North Korean regime. If these people are basically faithful to the Republic of Korea, it is no problem to live with them inside the same country, no matter how different their opinions or ideologies. In such a case, differences of opinion mean only differences in ideas on how to develop our country.
However, some left-wing people are even more pro-North Korean than most North Korean residents. These extremists deny the Republic of Korea and prioritize the stability and interests of the North Korean regime over those of South Korea. They say they do so because they care about shared nationality, reunification and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Who would not want peace on the Korean Peninsula? But peace is something that we protect, not something that we beg for. To give money begging for peace is like giving ransom to a criminal who holds hostages.
The North Korean regime has been trying to tear down South Korea, using all manner of methods, such as wielding physical power and provoking confusion within South Korea. But the South Korean government says South Korea should disarm itself first. That is why South Korean people are suspicious about whether those people shouting for progress love their country or not. Citizens feel that because of these so-called progressives, the security of our country and the future of our children are at risk.
To reform is to fix malpractices and to progress means to advance onward. But the administration shouted for reforms while they were actually dividing our society. They called for progress but have clung to the same logic they used when they were engaged in the student movements of the 1980s. Thus, citizens get irritated whenever they hear the words “reform” and “progress.” Who would oppose reform and progress in the truest sense? People doubt the genuine intentions behind these words because the administration takes advantage of such words to gain and maintain power.
Former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” This sounds perfect for the Korean vendors who sell reforms.
* The writer is a professor of economics at Hongik University.
by Kim Jong-seok