[Viewpoint] Hard men to likeThere is an old saying that the best entertainment is watching a fight. What led me recently to the always interesting and exciting world of debate was the liberal critic of current affairs Chin Jung-kwon. At the end of last year, he was involved in major debates over his criticism of the popular podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda” or “I’m a Petty-Minded Creep.”
He was accused of having defected to the dark side of the conservatives. His opponents, for the first time in his life, were the liberals. As I reviewed the discussions, I was amazed to see no signs of defection or deviation in his thinking in the least. Chin not change a bit.
I interviewed him seven or eight years ago. Although it was a very dry meeting, the memory of the interview lingered for a long time. At the time, he was known as a leftist instigator for having tenacious debates in cyberspace. But from my perspective, though, he was a philosopher to the bone. He was a man of endless skepticism and a man who simply couldn’t tolerate ignorance and irrationality.
Chin wanted to challenge other people’s arguments even if he had to make them angry. For his perspective, no one was on his side. He brutally attacked anyone and anything that seemed ignorant, unsophisticated or degraded, and it didn’t matter whether the targets were liberal or conservative. What he hated the most was blind faith and extremism. He loathed “the people who play religion with politics” such as the blinkered North Korea supporters and the extreme conservatives. Chin’s stern advice: “Satisfy your religious desires at churches or Buddhist temples and be more sober in your politics.”
Years have passed, but his war on irrationality goes on. He understood the strategy and effectiveness of the “Naggomsu” podcast, but he still criticized some of the broadcasts, calling them “vulgar and dirty attacks.” He expressed his concerns that the hosts of the podcast talked sheer gossip to satisfy their political purposes.
When the liberals demanded the annual salary of Chung Myung-whun, the maestro of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, be cut, Chin argued “the issue of art should be resolved with the logic of art.”
Soon, Chin faced an attack from the well-known leftist critic Park No-ja, a professor at the University of Oslo. He labeled Chin a turncoat who had returned to the mainstream after some under-the-table deals. If the conservative sing hosanna, believing that the enemy’s enemy is their friend, they should get a grip on reality.
Chin is a leftist. He has made clear his political vision involves social democracy, anarchism and the Green Party. I think he is an antibody for the liberals in Korea and their border guards. He preemptively removes their weaknesses, prompts internal debates and creates a logical defense shield. Although he has been misunderstood in the process, he does not care.
In a past interview, Chin said, “There have been three kinds of attacks on me. They criticized me for being rude, cold and offensive. None of them have convinced me logically, and naturally none of them made me angry.”
At the time, the interview was titled “The exquisite cohabitation of overmaturity and immaturity.”
Perhaps for a similar reason, there is another man who caught my attention: Kim Myung-ho, former professor of Sungkyunkwan University, whose story was the basis for the movie “Broken Arrow.” In 1995, he pointed out an error in a math question in the school’s admission test, and the school let go of him for slandering colleagues.
After losing a series of lawsuits to seek reinstatement, Kim fired a crossbow at a judge who ruled against him in an appeal. In 2007, he was convicted for the act and imprisoned for four years. After getting out of the prison last year, he argued that the justice system handed down an unfair judgment to him because it hated him. He argued that Korean law is “as accurate as math” but the judges have perverted it.
Kim is currently pursuing a series of lawsuits and his targets are on all sides. In a recent interview, he said the people and civic groups could not stop unlawful acts of the judicial system because they support rulings if they like them and oppose them if they don’t.
Kim believes that respecting the rule is true conservatism, and that is connected to Chin’s loathing of political irrationality.
The existence of Kim and Chin makes groups feel uncomfortable. But a mature society shouldn’t undervalue them. Founder of IBM Thomas Watson wrote that he had never hesitated to promote people he hated. He actually wanted rebellious, stubborn and unbearable people who spoke the truth. Political parties and our society should feel the same way. Advancement and innovation come from different voices.
*The author is a deputy economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Na-ree