[Viewpoint] Drop the political packagingThe current confrontation between conservative and progressive camps is mainly due to biased political groupings, unnecessary condemnation and emotional wounds rather than differences in actual points of view.
Not every citizen in the southeastern part of Korea can become conservative. Not every citizen in the southwestern part can become progressive.
Members of the Grand National Party cannot stick to their conservative conviction in every business dealing, and Democrats can’t always uphold their progressive convictions.
It may be of great importance that President Lee Myung-bak claims to steer a “middle course” from an ideological perspective, but he needs to seek sincere reconciliation and tolerance to deal with the conflict and confrontation in our society.
The incumbent administration won its election in 2008 with a landslide victory thanks to intensive criticism directed at the past government that was provoked by conservative media groups, academic circles and the Grand National Party.
The criticism that the past two governments were “left wing” and were major culprits behind the “economic meltdown” and “a lost decade” had a profound influence on many citizens.
The Lee Myung-bak government, which achieved regime change propelled by such “political packaging,” is locked in its own political packaging now and finds itself in such a miserable position that it is losing public support.
Although the past two administrations had a progressive perspective, they cannot be deemed progressive in terms of the details of the actions taken.
The Kim Dae-jung government implemented economic policies that were considered neo-liberal, such as capital market opening; the introduction of global standards; and forcible financial deregulation since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
The policy stance remained unchanged during the Roh Moo-hyun administration and major welfare programs were embodied during the Kim Dae-jung government.
And the ratio of welfare budget was raised by the late President Roh Moo-hyun. However, welfare is still weak and remains at the bottom of the table compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states.
The apparently progressive policies, such as the introduction of a comprehensive real estate tax and raising the property tax rate, existed, but corporate tax and personal income tax rates have been reduced.
Active free trade agreement policies have expanded the scope of national opening to the outside world.
Regardless of political rhetoric and sentiment, the policies have followed a middle course or taken mixed conservative stances.
However, the incumbent administration has been forced to follow other mixed forms of policies contrary to those taken by the past governments, as it won a victory in the presidential elections based on intense attacks on left-wing governments and policies.
Therefore, it has been confined to right-leaning mixed forms of policies from global or domestic perspectives.
A year and a half after the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak government, we need to see a more balanced policy for the successful administration of state affairs and the prosperity of the country.
If seen from a developmental phase, where Korea still stands, Koreans will naturally have a stronger desire to realize better public welfare and more balanced social development than they once had.
However, we should be able to pay more attention to strengthening people’s competitiveness in consideration of global economic conditions.
A government cannot win the public support needed to implement policies properly in a free democratic society unless it follows mixed forms of policies that harmonize with social factors.
However, it is not enough to modify its policy stance and increase measures designed to promote public well-being.
The incumbent administration should endeavor to get rid of past political packaging to ensure that such changes are truly understood by the people.
It should also try to achieve heartfelt reconciliation with its counterpart. The progressive camp should not attack the conservatives by resorting to distorted political packaging. It will hamper the right direction of national policies and will cause more confrontation and division.
Therefore, if this is a true gesture of reconciliation, we should respond gently.
*The writer is a professor of economics at Sogang University’s Graduate School of International Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Cho Yoon-je