[OUTLOOK]The struggle has made us stronger

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[OUTLOOK]The struggle has made us stronger

As the year nears its end, people talk a lot about politics. The more they talk, the more hostile and aggressive their talk becomes.
But if there is light, there is also shadow. Tough experiences this year can help us build a better future.
First, we have an opportunity to think seriously about what we have said and written. Many complain that the president’s remarks disturbed them or hurt them. Looking at the president’s series of provocative and aggressive words, people learned once again that we should be careful with words and talk with dignity. This a good lesson and one benefit from a debacle.
This year, the real estate market have fluctuated. The government’s inappropriate attempts to control the power of the market resulted in a disastrous outcome. That was another lesson we’ve learned.
The aim of the policy, which is to stabilize housing prices, is not a bad one. The problem is that the government attempted to control prices and that’s something that can only be done by the forces of supply and demand in the market.
Such measures have always failed in the past, but the administration ignored the lessons of history and caused more harm than good with their ham-fisted efforts.
We have also been able to think more seriously about what the United States means to us. As North Korea fired its missiles and conducted a nuclear test, we realized that we had no choice but to count on the United States for a nuclear umbrella. Because of that, we thought a lot about what benefits our country most.
While negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United States took place, we asked ourselves once again how important the U.S. market is to us when our economy depends heavily on exports.
Our stance toward the United States should be neither servile nor hostile. We should seek to benefit from friendly relations with Washington but the United States should also be aware of our strength.
Another lesson we’ve learned is why we need law-enforcement personnel to protect our society. On almost every weekend, protesters occupied main roads, blocking traffic. Fences of local government office buildings have been torn down and the windows of buildings broken. Fires and bamboo sticks were commonly used in these protests.
Under the military dictatorship, supporters of democracy regarded law enforcement personnel as the perpetrators of oppression. But now that our country has become democratized, we can see that the powers of law-enforcement should be respected, otherwise innocent people become victims. Even the limited usage of tear gas has become controversial.
Meanwhile, our exporters have created a legend. Export volume exceeded $300 billion, despite surging oil prices and the strong won. Our companies did their bit even though domestic sales were sluggish and the government tied down companies with regulations.
However, we have seen there are limits to the prosperity that can come from exports because the prices of export items are falling and many employment issues have surfaced in our labor market.
Thus, enhancing competitiveness in the service sector has become the most urgent task in order for our economy to make another leap forward. Many people now agree that a free trade accord with Washington would be a breakthrough at this moment. That is another good thing we’ve gained.
That wasn’t all. The court, the prosecution and lawyers had fierce fights this year. There has been a prejudice that those who pass the national bar exams must also be serious and noble. But people have learned that lawyers are human as well and that was good to know.
If their authority was based on our prejudice, excessive authority should be scrapped and law professionals should build a new rightful authority based on their professionalism. That can be applied to professors. Some professors have been criticized for alleged plagiarism in their work. Even though they argue that such practice was commonplace at the time they published their papers, they should have had better ethics.
But we are left with some bitter feelings that we can find so many lessons from bad examples. I hope that next year we will have a plethora of good examples and incidents to learn from.

*The writer is the chief of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Park Tae-wook
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