[Outlook]A new sun must riseElection campaigns are becoming more and more intense, producing small and large competitions simultaneously. This year’s presidential election has many presidential hopefuls and many issues. So far the media has seen the process as another opportunity for the sun to rise from the swamp. But that is not right.
Wednesday is Independence Day in Korea. If we look back over the 62 years of the Republic we see these days are the best in modern Korean history.
We are not desperately trying to survive in the midst of a Cold War, nor are citizens being suffocated by a dictatorship that feeds off the threat posed by North Korea.
We have an economic downturn but it’s not likely to cause starvation. Instead we live in an affluent age and people have more bounty than any other generation that has lived on the Korean peninsula. Although we do not know where the regional conflicts and left-right division will end, we still have the pre-conditions for a democratic election. The problem is the perception of the general public regarding the presidential election because they seem to think they are choosing another person to fill the five-year rotation at the Blue House.
Aside from the left-right conflicts, this presidential election is endowed with historical meaning because of the opening of our economy and other sectors of society by a series of free trade agreements with other nations. The Republic of Korea faces the challenge to break through from its current position as a medium-sized economy to become a leading country within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Only a few countries have been able to become a strong world power by promoting peace rather than by colonizing other countries.
We can also have pride in domestic issues. During the 20th century, Koreans were ruled by a feeling of insignificance and vengeance due to a residue of oppression and submission, and thus we welcomed the emotional tirades of the strong. This is reflected in the current atmosphere where society subdues itself to the maverick arguments of the few for fear of a collective emotional explosion. Rationality should become the warp and weave of society; and an emotional response that is not based on reasoning should have no value at all.
Meanwhile, a social safety net for the socially disadvantaged people should be provided.
And we should be more audacious toward those issues that we can solve based on our accumulated economic power, rather than making excuses about inadequate budgets.
At the coming Inter-Korean Summit we should also expand the list of items included in inter-Korean exchange on a consistent principle and maintain pride in our politics and society when it comes to inter-Korean issues. If the inter-Korean issue becomes something to just kick around in the election campaign that would be a regressive step.
No other time of history is better than now, in terms of both the international environment and domestic activities. Hence the current election process should presage the creation of a global state that creates social integration and harmony at home and international advances in peace and human rights. The election campaigns of the presidential hopefuls must try to develop such a vision.
However, the visions and promises of the presidential hopefuls have largely turned out to be demagoguery or seem like they came from a dummy’s how-to book for winning votes. It is a disappointment.
The next five years do not have much to offer if, in addition to the cheap political fights taking place in this quagmire, the visions on offer seem like they come from an undeveloped culture.
The citizens disappointment in their leaders will lead this country into further dismay. The presidential candidates are sincerely urged to aim higher. They are bound to pursue higher and more meaningful goals on a par with the level of citizens.
A global vision must be created first, addressing questions such as what is required of Korea for it to join the world’s fast growing governmental networks. And what role can Korea assume in the global governance system that determines intergovernmental and global issues?
Based on that vision, the candidates must make sure the major projects that are required of this country become the main issues of the presidential elections. The issues should not be lost in duels at dawn between competing contenders. The election is not a quiz show that can be won with political techniques. It’s a process to create and share a vision.
Let’s hope that were are not disappointed by another mediocre sun rising with the same old trajectory. And dear presidential hopefuls. we pray that you aim high.
*The writer is a professor of public policy at the Graduate School of Public Administration at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
By Lee Dal-gon