[OUTLOOK]Questions that require answers

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[OUTLOOK]Questions that require answers

If you ask a person who has been sick for decades whether he wants to get well, what will he say? “Do I want to get well? What kind of questions is that?” he will ask, because to get well is what he most desires. A similar story to this is recorded in the Bible.
I want to ask the same question sometimes. As I work in the political science field, people often ask me questions about politics. One of the frequently asked questions is what will happen in North Korea. When tension builds in inter-Korean relations such as when the North conducted a nuclear test, I get such questions more often. When I review the analysis of experts in preparation to give an answer, I find something is missing.
Inside and outside the country, experts present scenarios about North Korea’s regime. What will happen if North Korea’s government suddenly collapses? Then it’s highly likely that North Korea will fall under China’s rule. What if North Korea collapses slowly? For now, a resolution by the six-party talks seems more probable than other options and that means North Korea would be placed under the supervision of international society.
Then what happens to reunification? There will be no reunification in this scenario. There will be no reunification unless we want it, and that’s the reality.
So, when asked “What do you think will happen to North Korea?” I have no choice but to ask, “What do you want to happen to North Korea?”
Likewise, if one asks me, “What do you think will be the result of next year’s presidential election?” I have to ask, “What do you want for next year’s presidential election?” Some may say North Korean issues no longer concern them, but nobody can say next year’s presidential election is none of their business. But people tend to avoid talking about these issues.
There is one reason for that, I suspect, as far as most experts are concerned. For instance, there are rumors such as “a candidate who leads in the campaign one year ahead of the election will definitely be defeated in the election” and “none of the front runners in the campaigns for now will become the president.” When such bizarre rumors swirl around, the people stop thinking seriously about candidates or the election.
That is how we made a big mistake in the 2002 presidential election. Whether one voted for Roh Moo-hyun or not, everyone is responsible for the mistake. But now we are doing the same thing. People hide what they think, using factors like campaign rules as excuses.
Some candidates believe that they do not need to do their best this early in the campaign because they think they can sweep up votes in the last phase of the election. What factors lead them to believe this nonsense? The answers are regionalism and extreme ideologies.
When people are obsessed with such beliefs, they think what they believe is very special and what others believe is rubbish. They think that the way they feel about things is very natural while everyone who believes in a different ideology must be no more than a stubborn freak.
They believe what they have is truly precious while others should abandon what they have. As nobody will give up what they have or believe, there are a fixed number of votes for each candidate. So, a candidate gets elected if he or she succeeds in getting slightly more votes at the last minute. That is how the “rule of the last minute” works.
If things end there, it will be rather fortunate. But the problem is this rule led to an embarrassment for the Korean people and forced us to embark on an “arduous march.” With an approval rating of less than 10 percent, President Roh has thrown a nasty blow at the majority of society.
There is evidence that the people who voted for him because of regional interests and ideological reasons have become hostages to President Roh again. The ideology and regionalism that they blindly believed have turned out to be nothing but an illusion and all they have left is President Roh, a hollow man.
One can feel how vain regionalism and ideological conflict are, when looking at President Roh Moo-hyun. The question we should ask now is not, “What do you think will be the result of next year’s presidential election?” We should ask, “What do you want from the presidential election?” More precisely, it should be, “Do you want to have a leader like President Roh again?”

*The writer is a professor of political science at Kookmin University.

by Cho Choong-bin
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