[Outlook]Insecure disorderThose who voted for Lee Myung-bak in the last presidential election must feel bewildered now. They expected him to make a difference for the country as president in the same way that he achieved a series of legendary successes at Hyundai Engineering and Construction.
Now, some 100 days after he took office, however, the country is in chaos. The cabinet offered to resign en masse and demonstrators take to the streets every day. Nothing like this happened in former administrations. The administration seems to have collapsed after only 100 days. But the president is nowhere to be seen.
And the prime minister? What did he do wrong? Who put limits on his role and said he should work only on resource diplomacy?
A bad economy and delayed reforms are minor problems. As long as the country is in good shape, it can start working on these tasks whenever it wants. The problem is that the country’s foundation is now being shaken. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the people were frustrated because the country was not governed in the right way. The former president disrespected the country, rattled our national security foundations, and diminished national dignity.
The people, feeling an urgent need to get the country on the right track, voted for Lee Myung-bak. But things are now even worse then they used to be. It seems that the state has lost its function and its meaning. If a civic organization that leads demonstrations shouts orders at the government, with the administration acting like it will do as it’s told without complaining, then the government is dragged along helplessly without any sense of direction or goals. Let’s look at the past month. The administration hasn’t taken any initiatives to resolve problems. The problem with the former administration was populism; the incumbent administration’s problem is opportunism.
People can carry out demonstrations if need be. The right to protest is guaranteed by the Constitution. The problem lies with the government. Just as the people have a right to protest, the government has a duty to keep order in the country. The law was enacted to keep order. The incumbent administration, however, has failed to assert its authority. It hasn’t taken any measures even though the streets have been occupied by protestors for more than 40 days. It failed to embrace the general public’s opinion, but still submitted to them.
As for the beef deal with the United States, if the administration had said from the beginning that it would pursue additional negotiations, things wouldn’t have gone this far. The government’s responses were always late. How will it work if it has additional negotiations now, after having already refused to do so?
The administration confidently declared that it would carry out reforms of public corporations and now it has withdrawn. Cornered by the power of the general public, the government says it will give fuel subsidies and lower mobile telephone fees. But whose money is the government being so generous with? If it can do it now, why didn’t it do so before? Submission only lowers the dignity of the administration.
Opportunistic actions are the surest way to be abandoned by all sides. The government is criticized by protesters while also losing the trust of the side that used to support it, because it failed to follow basic principles. It is now entirely isolated. How will it spend what remains of its five-year term?
A wide range of evaluations are being made in the face of the lengthy demonstrations. For instance, they say there is a possibility direct democracy has begun, an era in which politics is concerned with everyday issues. Some say the Internet has wielded enormous power. Whatever the case may be now, there is one truth that is proven throughout history. Prosperity comes out of order. Amid insecurity and confusion, everything is volatile and nothing can take root. Flowers without roots soon wither. Prosperity can’t be pursued during anarchy.
There is only one solution. The government must start functioning as it should. It must restore the dignity of power. It must abide by the law and stick to basic principles.
Just as the general public protests when those in power attempt to oppress them, the government must protect the country when they try to shake the administration. It is allowed to do so because it is a legitimate administration elected through a democratic process. One needs courage to abide by this principle.
The president shouldn’t try to hide. He should appear in front of protesters and try to persuade the people. He should be prepared for harsh condemnation and even physical attacks for the sake of constitutionalism. He should become a president who goes out of his way to protect the law. Then the general public, which has turned its back on him, will come back.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk