[Viewpoint]The indifference disasterWe are engaged in a war on attention. As of today, the frontline of that war in Korea is the South-North Korean summit meeting and the film “D-War.” One is more popular in the off-line world and the other is more popular in the online world.
After the announcement that a second inter-Korean summit meeting will be held soon, the attention people had focused on Koreans taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan disappeared overnight.
Newspapers, television stations and the Internet all instantly shifted their attention to the summit meeting with amazing speed.
Among Internet users, on the other hand, the attention seemed to be focused on the movie “D-War.” They don’t seem to care whether the inter-Korean summit meeting will be held or not. Some audience members are praising “D-War,” while others pour out nothing but contempt.
On the Internet, at least, that is the attention black hole, on which everyone is focused.
The fierce struggle between Grand National presidential candidates Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, in which both sides are tearing into each other’s weak points, is still ongoing with the primary less than a week away.
Still, we have a feeling that the people are not paying much attention to the primary.
On the other hand, the more liberal political forces launched a new party, the Grand Unification Democratic New Party, on Sunday and announced on Friday their plan to merge the governing Uri Party with the New Party. It doesn’t seem, however, like the people are paying much attention to the new party or the merger.
Moreover, Sohn Hak-kyu, the former Gyeonggi governor, launched an official ceremony to announce his candidacy for president on Thursday. Due to the unexpected announcement of the summit meeting, however, he didn’t get much media attention. Some of his aides complained that whenever they plan a big event for Sohn, unexpected obstacles always seem to appear on those dates.
This time, it was more regrettable, because the former governor had even shaved the beard he wore during his tour of local provinces. In a sense, the political community ― which considers the people’s attention to be its lifeline ― seems to have been pushed far back in the attention war.
The attention war is not fought with swords and rifles. But it can be even more disastrous in the form of indifference. After the announcement of the summit meeting, the worries of the family members of the Korean hostages being held in Afghanistan grew enormously.
They worried the issue, not to mention the hostages’ safe return, would disappear from the minds of the general public. That is not a groundless concern.
As a result, the hostages in Afghanistan and their family members cannot but become the victims of the “disaster of indifference.”
When the people watched Baek Jong-chun, the presidential security adviser who went to Afghanistan as the presidential special envoy, on television on Wednesday to announce both Koreas had agreed to hold the second South-North summit meeting soon, I think the family members of the hostages in Afghanistan were the most puzzled.
The presidential envoy had gone to Afghanistan and failed to save a single hostage, coming back stealthily, without any alternative plans.
Without a word on the hostage situation, however, he appeared on television to announce the summit meeting. Is this a confession that his mind was absorbed in the summit meeting while he was hurriedly running around saying outwardly his mission was to save the hostages?
They say that one incident closes down a previous one. There is limited space in newspapers, time on television stations and front page exposure on Internet portal Web sites.
As a result, when a big event breaks out, the previous ones get hidden under their shadow. However, the government should try not to overshadow once incident with another one.
Instead, it must do things with a firm resolve to finalize at least one incident properly. As the Roman governor Pilate evaded the responsibility of nailing Jesus Christ to death, the government must not evade its responsibility and say, “We don’t know what will come next. We have new tasks ahead of us.”
Although the rainy season is over, the weather is unpredictable and we still have heavy rain at times.
Likewise, it is difficult to predict the changing climate of people’s attention. But one thing is clear.
Shouldn’t we prevent the disaster of indifference, the other side of the attention war?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Chung Jin-hong