[Outlook]Osteoporosis of the nation

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[Outlook]Osteoporosis of the nation

The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games expressed a form of group genius. Under the skillful direction of filmmaker Zhang Yimou, thousands of people made collective moves, as if each and every one of them was a pixel on a TV screen. I felt both envious and somewhat threatened, and was vividly reminded that we live right next to this country. To be honest, I felt more threatened than envious.

Throughout history, we lived under China’s influence for nearly 5,000 years. It was fortunate that we undertook industrialization decades earlier than China in modern history. As China chose communism and as a result tied its economy down, we were able to advance half a step ahead.

However, this period is now nearing an end. Korea is a small country. Our population is one-thirtieth that of China and our land is smaller than nearby Shandong Province. Can we beat China if we compete against it?

No, we can’t. The only way for us to survive would be to train all 40 million Koreans to become geniuses, making them 30 times more competent than each Chinese.

But will that be possible? Our education system has focused on training average citizens instead of producing talented people for the past 10 years. Watching Chinese dancers move identically in perfect order, one could only imagine the power of 1.3 billion people moving under the state’s leadership.

A recent series of events makes one feel that our country is losing its competence. As for the U.S. beef import dispute, negotiators should have navigated the talks in a more appropriate fashion. They should have made it clear that we would not import beef from cattle over 30 months old. However, the whole process was done hastily and carelessly. A U.S. announcement was even mistranslated.

As for the shooting of a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang, South Korea couldn’t do anything, as North Korea refused to conduct a joint investigation and expelled Hyundai Asan staff. The South Korean government has no idea why or how the middle-aged woman was killed, or what the North’s intention was.

The National Intelligence Service is supposed to be a government agency that collects information on North Korea. One wonders what the NIS is doing and if it is ashamed that it hasn’t fulfilled its duty. While it has no knowledge on North Korea, it condemned Pyongyang at a meeting of the Nonaligned Movement, an act which did us no good.

The Dokdo islets case also makes Koreans sigh. Japan is absolutely determined to take another country’s territory and is making every effort to do so. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed the category of the Dokdo islets when the issue surfaced. I believe that was because of continued lobbying by the Japanese. By contrast, the Korean embassy was not even aware of the change. After this happened, the Korean prime minister visited the islets, but will that make international society recognize Dokdo as our territory?

Some Korean politicians suggested sending our Marines to the islets for training exercises. However, will we be able to beat Japan with our current military capacity? Everyone knows that it will be hard to stand up to Japan even for a few days. Politicians don’t make meaningful efforts; they just try to put on shows, avoid crucial moments, make excuses and blame others. It is therefore hard to see a bright future for our country.

Korea has lost its core and only its shell remains. In the private sector, participants have to compete fiercely for survival. Therefore, a person or a company can’t survive without a strong core.

Our country still survives thanks only to the private sector, such as the youths who earn gold medals in the Olympic Games. But the core of the public sector, which is supposed to govern the whole country, is slipping away as time goes by. Our country’s capacity is declining significantly.

I believe the reason is our politics. Who ruined the NIS? As a group of ideologues took over the administration, they got rid of important North Korea experts. Why don’t civil workers work hard? Nobody wants to commit themselves to a country whose administration doesn’t care about competence, only employing those who obey.

Ideologies are ruining the country. As long as a person shares the same ideology, it doesn’t matter if he or she is competent at all. As the administration chooses ideology over competence, the country is losing competence. The same is true with the Lee Myung-bak administration.

If populism is widespread and politicians only pursue popularity, the country is bound to lose its core. The nation then suffers from osteoporosis. A person with osteoporosis collapses at even the slightest shock. The fireworks in Beijing should prompt our leadership to wake up.

*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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