[Viewpoint] More politics of revenge

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[Viewpoint] More politics of revenge

We are not sworn enemies at each other’s throats. An administration is something to be replaced, not to be violently overthrown. We are living in a country that has gone through a number of peaceful regime changes. Why do we have to put up with such ugly, hateful criticism?

These days, almost everyone blames President Lee Myung-bak for everything. In the past, President Roh Moo-hyun was blamed for everything. Perhaps because we’re a country that blames everything on the government, everything that goes wrong is the outgoing president’s responsibility. Even if someone tripped on the street and ripped his trousers.

After Han Myeong-sook was elected chairwoman of the Democratic Unity Party and Moon Sung-keun became a member of the party’s Supreme Council by getting the second-highest number of votes, a newspaper analyzed the outcome in the following way: “The Grand National Party and the media friendly to the administration and the ruling party will likely label the DUP ‘pro-Roh’ or try to play the Kim Dae-jung loyalists against Roh supporters.” Another newspaper’s headline read, “We will turn everything over. .?.?. We will pay everything back.”

The DUP is trying to avoid the impression that the party is now in the control of Roh loyalists. It is also wrong to say that the success of Han and Moon was entirely based on the halo of Roh. And yet, the media that reported the DUP leadership race without mentioning Roh at all is certainly as faulty as the media that labeled the DUP “pro-Roh” and tried to create a schism in the party.

The language “We will turn everything over. .?.?. We will pay everything back” is filled with emotion and hot blood. It was more than enough to quote Han’s public statement, “I will throw myself into stopping the Lee administration from handing over the presidency to Park Geun-hye.”

For the DUP to win the presidential election, it needs a sense of stability from now on. Anti-Roh sentiment allowed Lee Myung-bak to win the presidency in 2007, but it is unfortunate for the pattern to be repeated so that the next president will be elected based on anti-Lee sentiment. What’s desirable for our society is a stable administration - it can be leftist or on the right depending on the time - that forges the country’s future through unity. We do not need an emotional, unstable mess.

It is perhaps necessary to quote Kim Geun-tae, a leftist politician who recently passed away. “The Democratic Party must not identify its position as an anti-Grand National Party line and stay comfortable about public dissatisfaction toward the Lee government to enjoy victory,” said Kim in his interview with the Pressian on July 5, 2011. “I have reflected on [why we lost the last presidential election] and contemplated what we can do to overcome these problems, but it has been very difficult to find an answer.”

In the interview, Kim said, “Youngsters, I am sorry, but you must feel angry.” And yet, he never used cruel words while he was alive. The strongest expression he used was, “What a bad person he is.”

The key policies Kim promoted as welfare minister served both the right and the left. While he was serving in the post, the government introduced long-term recuperation insurance for the elderly and lowered the insurance burden on cancer patients. He also started the reform of the National Pension Fund and allowed for-profit hospitals in special economic zones to treat Koreans. He also presented measures to combat our aging society.

Many people mourned Kim’s death and paid him respect during his funeral, and Representative Kim Young-hwan of the DUP said it was the resurrection of Kim Geun-tae. Although he was not a popular politician, his sincerity was cherished after his death, the lawmaker said.

If the DUP pays heed to Kim’s legacy, it must show a stability that can take responsibility for state affairs. They must stop shouting anti-Lee slogans. They should appeal to voters by presenting a specific vision of the country’s future that they will create.

Now that the party has a new chairwoman, it needs to improve, raise funds and, most of all, think hard. They cannot “turn everything over” under the Constitution. There is a limit to tax cuts and tax hikes. They cannot just shut down the country and they cannot violate private property rights.

Instead, they must create jobs and ease the tension between classes. Although they do not have unlimited room to maneuver, they will have almost unlimited historic responsibility if they fail to decide on a right direction.

Whether it’s on the right or the left, some people win presidential elections because of the misgovernment of the previous administration, not because they are great. The people are making a choice between right and left because they want an improvement, not because they want to get back at a previous administration. The lesson from the anti-Roh and anti-Lee sentiments is that what ultimately matters is the economy and unity. The Korean Peninsula’s fate also depends on wise behavior amidst rapidly changing international affairs.

It will be a great misfortune for the country if there is another version of this column in a few months - or a few years - with only the names of the political parties switched around.

*The author is the editor-in-chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Su-gil

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