[Outlook] Springtime for Assembly

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[Outlook] Springtime for Assembly

The National Assembly is a portrait of who we are, as the legislators are elected by the people. So rather than censure the crippled operation of the Assembly, politicians and the people should explore a new way forward for Korean politics through reflection and the sharing of wisdom.

To this end, we should not get locked in a spiritual prison and become slaves of the past. When the occasion demands, we should have the courage to remove our deep-rooted obstinacy, grudges, regrets, prejudice and convictions.

Among recently democratized nations, the courageous deeds of Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has achieved remarkable success, serves as a model for others.

He started as a labor leader and gave up the ideology he had pursued for many years, concentrating all his energy on improving people’s welfare and helping low-income earners. He has encouraged people to take pride in the nation’s development and he has created a growth engine to bolster the simultaneous development of national politics and economy.

It is a splendid outcome. It was achieved by focusing on the question: “With whom can we cooperate to succeed?” rather than “Against whom will we fight?”

However, we are still trapped in a historic confrontation, and we have not yet found any agreement on resolving the special political task of how we can produce a far-reaching agreement with North Korea and the United States.

As for the recent shape of Korean politics, we have seen some progress thanks to compromise and agreement.

However, the political community has failed to accept the logic of recent events and sees this kind of progress as an impediment to the nation’s development.

The assertion that politics fails to encourage social integration but hampers development and contributes to something that could break the nation into factions is persuasive.

The people have achieved a considerably high level of consensus about the capacity of our political community.

What then is their perception of North Korea and the United States?

Korean society has accumulated a high degree of understanding and showed swift adaptation to new situations in terms of the duality of the South-North confrontation, which has lasted more than 60 years.

The two Koreas have maintained a sharp confrontation about identity and the security of their respective regimes. Nevertheless they should cooperate with each other to achieve unification of the Korean Peninsula and guarantee the welfare of all 70 million Koreans.

Many people understand the duality of the situation facing the two Koreas.

The majority of South Koreans accept the following as objective facts that have nothing to do with specific ideologies.

One is that the two Koreas are confronted with a huge gap in economic growth; and North Korea is vulnerable in terms of freedom, human rights and openness as well.

In addition, the North’s military and political stance, in particular its nuclear and missile development, pose a threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

Some people insist that we should risk waging a war to destroy the North Korean regime in order to achieve the kind of reunification that fits their vision, while others argue that we should join hands with the North’s leadership regardless of such basic values as freedom, human rights, and anti-dictatorship.

Both of these dangerous extremes should be firmly blocked at this point.

The political community has divided the people in their attitudes toward the United States into two extremes. Divisive politics of this sort have to be stopped. The Korean people know that a long-term alliance between Korea and the U.S. will be in our interest, and not the other way around.

The U.S. is our closest ally, with more than 2 million ethnic Koreans living there, expatriates who make a huge contribution to Korea’s security and economic growth.

Two decades after the Cold War, as the era of the United States as the earth’s only superpower draws to a close, Korea needs this special relationship to be sustained, not allowed to weaken.

Korea-U.S. relations should no longer be used as a tool to divide the people, appealing to anachronistic sentiments such as superiority or inferiority under the pretext of nationalism.

Such evil practices should be uprooted.

The National Assembly will convene in April. If politicians decide to turn over a new leaf and act more responsibly, the people of this country will be impressed, despite all the recent hardships.

Rather than move around this way, I hope that politicians will run the National Assembly in a productive manner to win public support and secure the confidence of the people.

We have to hear the cry “We can do everything!” and truly believe that it is coming from the heart, and that it is not just an empty slogan.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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