[Outlook]Fighting fair

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[Outlook]Fighting fair

The scandal of disgraced art curator Shin Jeong-ah and former presidential aide Byeon Yang-kyoon dominates the headlines day after day.
If she lied about her educational background to become a professor at a university ― an educational institute with high status and authority ― that is like a robber becoming the chief of police or a scam artist becoming a religious leader.
If a high government official misused his position and power to give his lover benefits, the country’s backbone has become rotten.
The new political party must be disappointed with the current state of events. It scheduled a party primary in early autumn before Chuseok to draw attention from people and hoped that its approval ratings, which are nearly at zero, would increase.
But nude shots of Shin were circulated in the papers, making the Shin-Byeon scandal even more dramatic. This makes the new party’s primary look like a boring sideshow.
Besides, there were suspicions that in the party’s primary, many registered voters were mobilized by the party or that voter identification numbers that did not match up with their voter registration numbers. The party is suspected of manipulating the pre-primary results.
That casts a shadow over the ruling party circle, which attempted a fresh start as a party of reformers, unlike the incumbent administration, which is criticized for a lack of ethical values.
The Shin-Byeon scandal and the new party’s primary have something in common. People involved in both used every possible means to achieve their goals. Moral values and common sense mean almost nothing to them.
The rules of the game were merely tools to achieve their goals. The expression “unlimited competition” properly describes this wrongful behavior and even justifies it. It is unknown when this expression was coined for the first time, but in the 1990s it was widely and frequently used.
We came to blindly believe that we are living in an era of unlimited competition, in which students compete without limit in schools, and companies compete fiercely on the global stage.
The spirit of the era of unlimited competition tells us that in order to survive, we must use all possible means, and should not care about principles or moral values.
This is literally competition without any limits.
The logic of unlimited competition sanctions speeding without using the brakes.
The Grand National Party’s primary has been polluted by severe negative campaign.
Suspicions arise that money was delivered under the table to make a South-North summit meeting possible. From a president and his top aides to students who cheat on exams, victory and success were absolute orders.
The spirit of the era, that the ends justify the means, can be seen in a company that builds a bridge that collapses and a disgraced scientist who used to be the people’s hero but turns out to have swindled the international science community.
Corruption, fraud, fabrication of documents or theses, manipulation of papers and breaking rules and laws have become common under the ultimatum of winning the competition.
But the true meaning of competition is different. A Chinese character which denotes competition describes a scene in which two people are in a verbal argument.
This is different from another character detoning a fight, which depicts people physically fighting with locked arms.
Competition is more like a race than a fight. In English, the word “competition” originated from the Latin words cum, meaning together, and petere, meaning to strive.
Thus, competition means efforts to become better or advance while acknowledging other contenders and abiding by rules.
It doesn’t allow contenders to break rules and it doesn’t mean survival of the fittest.
To fight without rules is like life in the jungle where the strong prey upon the weak. Fighting without respect is mere barbarity.
Not only people who want to become successful and those who want to become the president, but all of us should remember the true meaning of competition -- that is competition within certain limits, instead of competition without limits.
We should think about competition and cooperation simultaneously. Humankind has developed because people with different talents cooperated, not because they competed without limits.
Competition becomes most effective and efficient when contenders respect principles, common sense and moral values.

*The writer is a professor of political science at Soongsil University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cho Hong-sik
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