[Outlook]Another kind of tyrantLike any good melodrama, the Hanwha chairman’s revenge scandal is set for a long run. If Chairman Kim Seung-youn turns out to be responsible for the revenge violence, he will be required to face justice.
The Foundation of Korean Industries (FKI) wants the alleged beatings to be minimized. They would prefer they were seen as the private acts of a father whose affection for his son overwhelmed his judgement.
However, most citizens have been angered by the senseless nature of this incident, which has elements that are usually found in TV dramas.
Now that the name of a notorious gangster has surfaced in the case, the tremors from the Chairman Kim scandal will continue for some time, even though the entire story will probably be forgotten as the judicial process drags on. However, this case has revealed an ominous and dark side of Korean society. Everyone knew that it was there, but no one wanted it revealed; now it has been dragged into broad daylight.
The A to Z of this incident vividly reveals how deep the power of big companies is rooted in Korea, which is sometimes called “the republic of conglomerates.”
We are aware that our big enterprises, once the splendid engine of economic development, have now secured their place as the power brokers of our society.
However, their exercise of power had become so smooth and refined, because power aggrandizes, that we could no longer feel its oppressive reality in our daily lives.
The true identity of these enterprises is disguised by euphemisms such as “producing national wealth,” “increasing productive power,” “providing job opportunities” and “returning wealth to society.”
This way of speaking has force because it is based on empirical data. We also live and breathe their discourse, because the capitalist market economy is taken for granted. Yet, in the meantime, it conceals the blatant power of big capital as well. Chairman Kim’s revenge case is a down-to-earth reminder of the mighty power of big capital, which has grown to such a degree that it treats the law with scorn.
The fundamental reason that FKI and the conglomerates are baffled by the Kim incident is because the raw nature of their power has been revealed for what it is, contrary to their previous arguments that capital is rational in its nature and not related to violence.
In other words, this is not just a matter of private dishonor.
A state whose power had expanded so that it had become like a lumbering dinosaur was reined in as democracy took over our political sphere. Colossal political tyrants, who threatened the lives of citizens, were banished from power.
Nevertheless, our society still has small or large tyrants hidden in every nook and cranny of the corporate world.
Flaunting the unhindered power they wield in each sphere, they laugh at the democratic principles of organization and public reason.
For the least advantaged people, whose primary concern is earning the bread and butter for each meal, the little tyrants who have them by the throat are more threatening than the president, who sits at a distance in the Blue House.
The anecdotes about how business has been conducted at Hanwha, which have emerged because of Chairman Kim’s conduct, seem like the behavior of a feudal lord. But we are well aware that such anecdotes are not confined to one particular company. The little tyrants are preoccupied with building an iron tower to protect their power. They offer grace to the loyal, but an iron fist to the rebellious. Little tyrants resemble the big tyrants of the past, in that both of them do not allow any challenge to their power or authority, nor do they tolerate anyone they dislike.
That colossal political tyrants have vanished like dew on the guillotine does not automatically bring about democracy.
Democracy does not come to our life unless the tyranny and small despots in every part of our society are restricted.
Tyrants hardly change themselves. It is human nature to exploit the smallest grain of power.
Therefore few people can expect humanity or a warm heart from a tyrant.
It is also a well-established truth that power corrupts, be it public or private power, unless it is checked by reasonable criticism.
Chairman Kim’s brawl adds further empirical evidence to this inductive truth.
*The writer is a professor of philosophy at Hanshin University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Yoon Pyung-joong