[Outlook]Where have our dreams gone?Two weeks have passed since the Virginia Tech shootings took place. After that incident, the Grand National Party was defeated in a by-election in Korea. What do Cho Seung-hui, the Virginia mass murderer, and the Grand National Party have in common? Whenever I think about Cho I feel sorry for him. He must have felt unbearable despair as an immigrant among American kids before he committed his atrocity. If somebody had told him that he had a hopeful future he might not have turned into a monster.
Everybody goes through hardships. But those who have dreams and hopes do not fail. While treasuring our dreams, we can overcome hardship. What keeps us going is not reality, but hopes for the future.
In the recent by-election, the Grand Nationals were soundly thrashed. The party was proud that the approval ratings of its two presidential candidates stood at a combined level of 70 percent. What happened to their popularity? It seems people supported the party as a lesser evil. The people were sick and tired of President Roh Moo-hyun and the Uri Party so they wanted to punish them. This wish was the main reason behind election results so far. But this by-election was different because neither Roh nor the Uri party were in contention. At last, voters started to look closely at the Grand National Party and listened carefully to what they were saying.
The Grand National Party did not talk about dreams. It did not present hopes, either. That was the same with the two contenders for the election.
Dr. Martin Luther King, who is famous for his “I have a dream” speech, used his dream to create momentum for the United States to institute equal rights. Barack Obama, who has risen to become a presidential hopeful for the Democratic Party, shows what dreams mean in politics. His autobiography is titled “Dreams from My Father” and he wrote another book called “The Audacity of Hope.” He does not talk about policies in detail. He asserts that Americans should restore the dreams and values they used to have. People have started to share his dreams and hopes. He has become one of the leading presidential contenders, despite being a member of an ethnic minority.
What dreams do the two Grand National Party presidential hopefuls talk about? Do they give us hope? One has talked about building a channel throughout the peninsula and building railroads connecting our country to the Northeast Asian region. That was it. Are these dreams and hopes? No. These are projects for construction, transportation and tourism.
The suicide rate in Korea is the highest in the OECD. In 2005, 12,000 people killed themselves, an average of 30 people a day. That figure is three times higher than 10 years ago and double the rate of five years ago. Just like Cho, these people could not overcome despair. If they had any dreams, even the smallest, they would not have chosen death.
Parents are overwhelmed by the burden of educating their children. Young people are frustrated because they cannot find employment after graduating. Young couples feel helpless because it seems impossible to buy their own houses, even after 10 years of marriage. Ordinary citizens have difficulties living day-to-day life. Do politicians understand their hardships?
The Grand National Party members bribe people to earn party nominations and they try to find the right person to support to gain some advantage. It seems that anybody, young or old, becomes more or less the same once he or she enters the party. The two hopefuls are busy building their camps and collecting more party members around them. They fight fiercely to assume leadership of the party. It appears that the person with the strongest ambition for power will be elected president. There are no dreams but lots of stage acts. The candidates seem to believe that they can earn people’s support by changing their hair styles or by baking buns for a street vendor.
We must stop saying, “Well, the Grand National Party is still the only alternative.” That has made the Grand National Party arrogant. The two hopefuls believe that all they must do is earn their party’s nomination and they will win the presidential election. They are clutching a rotten rope, hoping to climb to the sky.
We need something fresh. If things persist, our country will descend into tragedy. Anybody can become the president, as long as he or she does not sacrifice our country to Kim Jong-il, does not fool the people in the name of reunification, does not depend on networks based on regionalism and does not build hatred among people by separating the rich and the poor.
We are waiting for someone who will give us dreams and hopes, who can guide us to have bigger personal dreams, while believing in the dream of a country united and free.
*The writer the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk