[Viewpoint] Politics: lifeblood of the nation

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[Viewpoint] Politics: lifeblood of the nation

Politics restrain not only your actions but also your outlook and psychology. Characteristics of an administration, or more frankly, characteristics of a president, have a huge influence on individual traits.

In his book, “A French Life,” the French author Jean-Paul Dubois portrayed in great detail the life of a French man during a period in which the national administration changed five times.

The chapters of the book are named after presidents of France.

It would be suitable to write Korea’s modern history as such a novel. Korea’s presidents would be great characters as they affect, and sometime afflict, the mental states of individuals.

Here’s how it could shape up. Let’s call the book “A Korean Life” and divide it into nine chapters: 1. Syngman Rhee, 2. Yun Bo-seon, 3. Park Chung Hee, 4. Choi Kyu-hah, 5. Chun Doo Hwan, 6, Roh Tae-woo, 7. Kim Young-sam, 8 Kim Dae-jung, 9. Roh Moo-hyun.

Thinking about the shock that each and every one of them gave to Korean life, it’s not difficult to picture a novel based on these leaders.

No matter how skeptical you are about politics, politics does not distance itself from you, not even an inch. Like it or not, politics wields a strong influence and power over your life.

Therefore, one should not be engaged in politics if one does not have a philosophy on society, strong willpower, professional skills and knowledge. Politics should be a sphere reserved for highly trained experts.

One of the greatest misfortunes for our politics is not that politics has strong power, but that amateurs are sometimes allowed to play.

Running for an election and getting elected do not make one an instant expert. After watching a film, anybody can spout opinions about it. But that does not mean that everybody could make a film like the film’s director. One can criticize strategies of a world-class football club but one cannot coach the team.

But why do people mistakenly believe that anybody can be a politician?

Politics is one of the most difficult arenas in the world. Politics involves the magic of making what is on an agenda disappear. That is, politics makes the uncertain certain, and what is opaque transparent.

Good politics is done while people do not notice it being done. In a way, good politics works like a garbage truck that takes away garbage bags in the early morning while everybody is still asleep.

There are three different ways to make political decisions.

First, all people can agree on an issue unanimously. However, that is very nearly impossible. Second, one can oppress opponents’ opinions with violence. This can be done through war or dictatorship. That creates a vicious circle. Third, one can negotiate and compromise, which is the right way to get things done.

This is why democracy is needed. Through negotiations and compromises, different, entangled interests of different people can be adjusted.

There is a saying that you do not want to look into the way either sausages or political negotiations are made. They are so repugnant that one cannot stand their sight.

That is the nature of politics.

To make politics a procedure of negotiations and compromises, only those who have been educated about democracy must enter the political arena.

Failing that, there must be a stable system that provides experts to guide and support rookies in politics.

If that is not possible either, veteran politicians who at least understand how to negotiate and make compromises must serve as such experts or guides.

Unfortunately, we do not have any of these. That is why politics in our country is becoming more and more like war.

In the 1970s and the 1980s under military rule, people from the Korea Military Academy were employed in politics. After the 1980s, they were replaced with former student movement activists.

And now?

Politicians are not produced in a systemized and professional way and that is a disaster for the country.

Many experienced senior politicians have been forced to step aside but a new system has not replaced them.

This alone brings us grave concerns as war clouds are gathering over the National Assembly again today.


*The writer is a political consultant and the chief executive officer of Min Consulting. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Park Sung-min
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