[Viewpoint] President’s woes are his own doingWe are seeing something far more than a retreat. The Lee Myung-bak administration is running away in a hurry. A retreat is orderly; it can be a strategy of taking a step back before taking two steps forward. But running away is a different story. It is a retreat with no plan for the next step. It is a debacle, and the Lee administration is looking pitiful.
The protests continue against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, but the Lee administration has not fought back. It appears to have no plans, just waiting for time to pass so that street demonstrations can calm down. The demonstrations are carried out by anti-FTA extremists, and at the core are anti-Lee, leftist forces.
Their leadership often turns a blind eye to the truth. It is their habit. Their measures are hysterical: agitation, criticism and flip-flops.
And then they produce a lie. The greater the lie is, the more psychologically effective it is. Rumors and conspiracy theories must be desperate and outrageous. The more serious they are, the better they sound. The logic has already been proven in past ideological battles.
In addition, some facts are added as seasoning. The combination amplifies the power of the rumors. The effectiveness was already proven in the anti-U.S. beef demonstrations. This time, the strategy is to spread a sense of crisis because of the FTA with the United States.
The leaders who protest the market opening invite bold camaraderie. When one of their comrades makes unreasonable arguments, the rest applaud. And some judges have decided to join in. They say the investor-state dispute settlement provision in the FTA is a problem, calling it an infringement on Korea’s sovereignty.
Under that line of thinking, Korea is an economic colony of all countries. The history of Korea’s market opening, however, has shown the opposite. The country has grown based on the open market. It recorded $1 trillion in trade volume, becoming the ninth-largest exporter.
Anti-FTA forces have a long history of persistently opposing open markets. Their political DNA is passed down, and their curses and pessimism are repeated. And yet, their curses and fears have never been realized.
During the Kim Dae-jung administration, the president pushed forward a gradual opening of the Korean market to Japanese cultural products. Protesters said the Korean film and pop music industries would collapse, calling Kim pro-Japanese. Yet, the Korean Wave is sweeping the world with success, silencing the curses.
Korea’s young generation is used to challenges and progressiveness. They have created the Korean Wave, and they are now about to seize Japanese pop culture with K-pop. After his inauguration, President Roh Moo-hyun was attracted to the charm of open markets, seeing them as opportunities. “The Korean people are highly adaptability, as they have never failed in the face of a market opening,” Roh said. The Korea-U.S. FTA is a product of presidents Lee and Roh.
But anti-FTA forces do not care. They have crushed Roh’s words and behavior and are experimenting with new ways of protesting Lee. They are building a battlefront by linking civic groups and political parties. And in the far corner, the Democratic Party is standing ungainly.
The Lee administration is marred with wounds. Ridicules and insults are flooding the streets and Twitter. It actually was all of its own doing. After the Grand National Party used its majority to pass the FTA, the people waited for Lee’s reaction. “What’s right must be done, even if there is opposition,” he said. It was such a flat, discouraging reaction. It was seen as a sign that the Lee administration no longer had the will to fight.
The public was sharply split, and Lee should have strongly confirmed the beliefs of FTA supporters. Most people were enraged by the tear gas attack by a Democratic Labor Party lawmaker to block the FTA’s ratification. It was regarded as an insult to the Korean people’s achievements. But Lee’s words lacked sympathy.
A president’s language must be dignified and fierce. Reading a boring text amidst a confrontation will only distract the people’s attention. A leader should have held on to the emotions and imaginations of the public. The Korea-U.S. FTA was the completion of Korea’s market opening. It was the quintessence of Park Chung Hee’s spirit of a trade nation, Kim Dae-jung’s spirit of cultural opening and Roh Moo-hyun’s spirit of embracing challenges. Lee should have reaffirmed that to the people.
The Lee administration has lost its confidence in persuading the public. Although history shows that Korea has been successful when opening its market, it is passive in promoting the historical truth.
The Blue House has become the subject of ridicule, but it is still spending time and energy to avoid the situation with a delaying tactic and a detour. That’s nothing more than lowdown tricks of ggomsu (a petty-minded creep). The political parody of “Naggomsu” actually began from this administration.
Politics is a living organism. One bad move can be a bright strategy, while a hard-thought move can be the cause of defeat. We cannot expect the profound from detour and evasion. Only the principled and confident can win the power.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Park Bo-gyoon