[Viewpoint]Running in place

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[Viewpoint]Running in place

Have you ever heard of the Red Queen Principle? It comes from the story of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” a sequel to “Adventures in Wonderland.” The Red Queen is running all the time, but everything around her is moving, too, so she is always in the same place.
“Well, in our country,” said the character Alice, still panting, “you’d generally get somewhere else if you ran very fast for a long time as you’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” the Red Queen said. “Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you have to run at least twice as fast!”
Similarly, all creatures are constantly evolving in the fast-changing environment, slowing down development.
The evolutionary hypothesis is called the Red Queen Principle. It is often applied to areas of management, complexity theory, new technology development and system innovation. It can also be applied to the situation in Korea, where the president runs around everywhere advocating change.
Let’s study the case.
According to the Red Queen Principle in Chaos Theory, when actors make constant efforts to move in the direction of a change in an organically changing system, a new system has an increased possibility of emerging.
If you walk up on an up escalator, for example, you will get to your destination faster than the speed of the escalator. If you stand on the step and let the escalator take you, however, you will only keep up with the change.
If you walk down the up escalator, the world will change and you will remain in the same place.
Unfortunately, we are going through the last situation. While the world is moving upward toward change and innovation, many groups are going against the flow.
Police reform is a good example. Yet the police have not changed. A police executive friend shared an unpleasant episode with me from his days as a criminal bureau chief at a police station in Seoul.
When he first came to his office, he found that no one was doing their jobs correctly. All the cops did was complete their rounds in their jurisdiction and nothing else.
He ordered his subordinates to work just 30 percent of their working hours. Just by doing that, the police station was ranked at the top in Seoul by the end of that year.
The incident took place a long time ago, but not much has changed since.
The police are still putting their own welfare before public order. Rather than investigating complicated criminal cases, they care more about traffic control to get a better performance record.
A cop is considered competent when he can blanch over or water down complicated cases. That’s what happened when the police at Ilsan watered down the attempted kidnap of a minor into a simple assault. When the president demanded further investigation, the police captured the offender in only six hours.
If the police were able to capture the suspect, they should have been able to before the president spoke out. If Hwaseong needed a police station, it should have spoken up sooner. Well, the police are not the only agency to be criticized. We shouldn’t wait to get rid of antiquated telephone poles until the president mentions them. It is ridiculous that a road that doesn’t have any traffic was built in the first place.
Such follies are committed by the people walking down the up escalator.
When the president speaks up, they are taken by surprise and turn back. Society is not systematically evolving, but is moving according to the president’s orders. There are so many people in every corner of society riding the escalator backward. If everything has to be addressed by the president, we will not need just one, but a dozen presidents.
If the president is the only Red Queen, he poses as much danger as the people moving against the escalator. How can a president be right about everything? If he makes a wrong decision, I am afraid he might make even those facing the right direction turn back. We need a system that operates properly without the president’s involvement.
Such a system should be equipped with an alarm that can go off if the president makes a misjudgment.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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