[Viewpoint] Obsession with ideology

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[Viewpoint] Obsession with ideology

Michael Jackson must be walking on the moon by now. Was he ever troubled by ideology?

He might have had racial concerns, but he probably wasn’t torn between the left and right. Not just Michael Jackson but few Americans are, either. In fact, few people living in the developed world anguish over whether they lean to the right or left.

However, Koreans are different. Many Koreans wield metal pipes and drink heavily because of their ideological beliefs. So, why do Koreans take ideology so seriously?

To answer this question we have to look at the two different kinds of ideology that exist.

The first - let’s call it Ideology I - is about the identity of a community, and the other - Ideology II - is about the operation of the community.

Ideology I involves identity issues such as how a state was created, what kind of history it has, what form the state takes now and what it plans it pursues for the future.

Ideology II concerns how a community operates and is maintained. It includes economic issues such as the size of the government, the tax and welfare system and the social agenda, such as views on minorities, abortion, homosexuality, labor union, educational regulation and capital punishment.

Discords over Ideology II can be found in any country. Power alternates between conservatives and progressives depending on what values citizens want, but not so Ideology I.

Most developed countries no longer have discords over Ideology I. Americans do not squabble over the War of Independence against the British monarchy, emancipating slaves at the cost of a bloody civil war and entering the World War II to help fight tyranny.

Americans have had their share of feuds over the Vietnam War, but the internal discord was not serious enough to severely shake the nation. Republicans and Democrats even spoke with one voice at the beginning of the war in Iraq.

The British are not much different. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party don’t battle over the history of adopting a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy or defending the nation against the Nazis.

And the British Empire don’t appear to be divided over atrocities carried out in the name of the Empire such as the massacres in India, even though this is a shameful part of history.

How about France? The conservatives and the progressives aren’t at odds over the three values of liberty, equality and fraternity that have their origins in the French Revolution of 1789, and their is not spat over bestowing to the world a wealth of cultural heritages.

The French people who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II have already been convicted, so there is no controversy similar to the one in Korea over the Japanese collaborators.

Nevertheless, in Korea, the entire country agonizes over Ideology I. Most developed countries resolved issues related to monarchical government in the 18th and 19th centuries by taking back the sovereignty from kings and queens.

However, the kingdom of Joseon was annexed by Japan in this crucial period. If the people of Joseon had modernized the country by themselves, the discord over Ideology I that is troubling Korea today might have been considerably reduced.

But because 36 years under the Japanese occupation are lost chapters in Korean history, Koreans are still sensitive about Koreans who collaborated with Japan and the legitimacy of the Syngman Rhee government.

With half the peninsula under the communist rule, Koreans are still divided over the Korean War, the confrontation between the left and right, anticommunism vs, dictatorship and the Sunshine Policy vs. a hard-line stance.

South Korea is standing face to face with a high-powered communist group bolstered by nuclear weapons, hereditary autocracy and military-first policy. Inevitably, Ideology I is a problem for us. As long as this existential challenge continues to put pressure on Korea, Ideology I is a given constant.

The country has been divided for 64 years now. If the entire country had been brought together, we could have resolved the conflicts we have about community identity, industrialization and democratization.

Regrettably, the decade under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations have made the entire identity issue a complete mess.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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