An unfair societyEver since President Lee Myung-bak unveiled his vision to create a “fair society” during an Independence Day speech on Aug. 15, his administration has adopted the words as its new catchphrase.
The government recently lashed out against conglomerates for their treatment of partners and suppliers, admonished the privileged class and chastised officials accused of corruption - all in the name of fairness.
The concept of fairness is obviously an important part of our society. Without it, the government cannot win the public’s trust or its backing.
The fact that Lee’s administration is now using the concept as a keystone of its overall strategy provides some strong evidence that, unfortunately, there’s been a lot of unfairness in Korea as of late.
But the government’s liberal use of the word fairness is worrisome as well, as it seems the concept has become an ideological tool for governance.
It’s difficult to define exactly what a fair society entails. Politicians, however, are attempting to measure national issues using the yardstick of fairness. Applying a specific ideology to national governance also doesn’t meld nicely with the pragmatism President Lee has been emphasizing.
Unfairness occurs when powerful people use their might for personal gains. Therefore, powerful people should respect the concept of fairness. If they don’t lead by example, the whole concept is almost meaningless.
Some observers have responded to Lee’s push for fairness sarcastically, as many people are still suspicious of the privileged class. The public believes that the Blue House picks candidates for high government posts based on their personal connections with President Lee rather than their individual merits, experience and talent. With that as the prevailing mood, Lee’s words on creating a fair society amount to nothing more than an empty slogan.
The presidential office has already said that “we, together with the cabinet, are all determined to sacrifice our interests first.” But we’d rather see actions over words.
We also believe that the government should not implement policies that encourage reverse discrimination.
In other words, competent candidates for positions should not be put at a disadvantage because they do have personal connections with the president.
Fairness is still a confusing concept when combined with Lee’s pro-working class philosophy, as it could be interpreted as a challenge to the existing order.