[Viewpoint]Save presidential politicsAn election reveals a country’s politics. That is true in Korea, where the politics being displayed are also a measure of the standards of Korean democracy.
By the way, those standards have fallen into a deep valley.
Similar to a start-up company that is imploding, the politics have fallen to a valley of death where capital keeps eroding while sales are stagnant ― even if everything possible is being done to save the business, including scraping up money from everyone within reach, trying to develop technology and frantic marketing. The chances of survival are very slim.
The political adventurism of a few candidates is destroying the efforts exerted by the entire nation in the long struggle for democracy. The basic principles of democracy, party politics and the practice of presenting political visions in an election have not yet taken root. They are adrift in a death valley.
Some say the presidential system itself is an obstacle to Korea’s democratic development. The presidential system, currently practiced in the United States and some South American countries, provokes an aggressive political war because it endows one person with excessively concentrated governing power.
The fight ends up in an arena where the people’s perception of democracy is damaged and foul play is rampant.
Perhaps that is why the upcoming election is so heated.
There is nothing more important than the presidential election in a country with a presidential system.
An election should be a stage where the parties and their candidates vie for victory or defeat based on the visions for the future they present.
However, the last-minute entrance of Lee Hoi-chang, the former chairman of the Grand National Party, into the presidential race has made all of those visions and policies disappear.
Now, the place of birth and “political weight” of each candidate have become the bases for evaluation.
An election should be a festival in which emotional confrontations and conflicting social interests can be resolved. Instead, however, the elections here tend to amplify conflicts.
The presidential election, in which politicians are repeatedly coming together and then parting ways, and the general election in April next year are becoming battlefields of coalitions and conspiracies of various political factions, wasting valuable time.
Makeshift plans due to a lack of time will only end up with poor results.
Candidates who had impugned each others’ character face a dilemma when they have to join forces.
It is hard for a president with little support to energize and rally the nation around him. Some candidates will ultimately have to sacrifice their integrity in the valley of dilemma.
How can they get out of that valley safely?
Political parties have lost a lot of their authoritative significance in contemporary politics, but they still play an important role in other democratic countries. Korea’s democracy needs strong political parties, too.
The armies to lead the way out of these high mountains and deep valleys will be political parties.
Meetings and partings for political benefit not long before the general election cannot secure the national vision for our politics or economic stability for society.
The key is for people to observe closely the roots and leaves of political parties.
Next, avoid at all costs turning both the people and the candidates into losers and withering the power of politics.
The people’s mistrust of politics and government is reaching its peak.
Candidates urgently need to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the people. The country cannot be saved without first saving the people, who are stuck deep in a pit of mistrust.
Korea’s democracy, which was saved by the sacrifice of many students and people, cannot be trod on any more because of a few elites who are obsessed with political power.
Abstract speeches and lame excuses do nothing but disguise their desire for power.
The people are not blind. Candidates should open their eyes, which are being covered by their followers who want to grasp leftover power. They also should not put everything on the upcoming presidential election.
Look to the future. If they do so, the values they declare will survive, even if they lose the election.
Next, the political limits of the presidential system must be overcome.
The presidential system in which the winner takes all escalates political confrontation. Hostile confrontations can be lessened by establishing solidarities among diverse forces.
Solidarities have started to be created in our society. A policy solidarity, which transcends strategic solidarity for attack and old-fashioned strategies based on regionalism, should be brought about.
Keep in mind that the more confused politics becomes, the more highly regarded vision and policy leadership will be.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Dal-gon