[Viewpoint] Between Chung and Kang

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[Viewpoint] Between Chung and Kang

With his age and experience, former lawmaker Chung Bong-ju is like a mentor to former lawmaker Kang Yong-seok. Chung has made President Lee Myung-bak a target of his wrath, particularly with accusations of his involvement in the BBK financial scandals, so his ambitions are a bit bigger than Kang’s, who concentrated on accusing Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon’s son of dodging the draft. But their modus operandi is the same, which we’ll call the Chung-Kang model.

We should feel grateful for the Chung-Kang model. Why? Because the two men embarrass the people with their strident voices reverberating in both the liberal and conservative arenas. This is an easy and clear lesson for our society. How does Chung see Kang, and vice versa? They are mirror images, and it is their reflections that make sensible people sick and tired of the recent trend of politicians attacking their enemies with a kind of blind obsession.

If Kang had checked on Park’s son’s height and weight, he wouldn’t have gone as far as he did. Because he was blinded by emotion, Kang acted unreasonably.

If Chung had accepted the facts that were uncovered as they actually were, he wouldn’t have gone as far as he did. As a member of the National Assembly’s National Policy Committee, Chung participated in the parliamentary investigation into the Financial Supervisory Service and went after the link between Lee and BBK. The transcript of the National Assembly session on Oct. 26, 2007 of the investigation included the testimony by a witness that Lee was not the actual owner of BBK.

As we can see, the Chung-Kang model is not about the complex pursuit of finding the truth; it is a much simpler activity. Their accusations were chimeras that disappeared on simple revelations: a young man’s height and weight and a piece of testimony before the National Assembly.

Because their accusations were so simple and unbothered with the complexities of the truth, the mirror effect became clear and the lesson for society was simple.

On the opposite side of the looking glass from Chung’s supporters, who are seeking his release from a prison term for making false accusations, there are people who believe in the accusations of Parks’s son’s draft dodging. And on the opposite side, there are people who still want to believe that President Lee is the actual owner of BBK. That is the Chung-Kang model.

And the media is almost blinded by the Chung-Kang model.

Just look at how the media plays up articles and opinion pieces about Chung and Kang. Some made Kang’s accusations front page headlines even before they were confirmed. Other media reported every one of Chung’s moves.

While the Financial Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post and others make clear and confident arguments in their editorials as to why they support certain candidates, we can not do that. Why is this?

It’s because these newspapers assured their readers that they were reporting news as it really happened, while their commentaries are written out of strong beliefs. It’s because they make clear declarations as to whether they are conservative or liberal, and uphold their views but never distort the news.

In the world of Twitter, the Chung-Kang model became even more pervasive.

The situation was so serious that six “keyboard warriors” of our time, including Chin Jung-kwon, a Dongyang University professor, decided to move their activities from Twitter to a team blog by launching an online debate site called Litmus this week. They are fighting back against anyone who treats those with different opinions as enemies and those who engage in insult-ridden attacks rather than a constructive debate.

In my previous columns, I have argued that if we envy Sweden, we must learn how they build their social consensus. If we truly want our society to improve, we must learn a lesson from the Chung-Kang model.

Recently, the ghost of polarized politics began making its rounds again. To confront it, how about asking ourselves these questions?

“Will an administration be able to govern without talking about growth?” “Can an administration change the world after it wins the election?” “Will welfare be able to resolve wealth polarization?” “Will we have to give up our greed to survive mutually?” “Are we still waiting for a messiah?”

You probably have already picked a side on those questions.

But there is no need to do so. The questions are from a book recently published by Kim Byung-joon, head of the Social Design Institute, who served as senior presidential secretary for policy planning in the Roh Blue House. The book is titled “There is No President for the 99 Percent,” and subtitled “Seven Questions an Awakened Citizen Must Ask.”

The first question is, “How much do we know?” The author came to the conclusion that we must no longer allow blind beliefs at the opposite poles of our political spectrum.

It is a rare book that talks about sensitive pending issues without splitting sides. This book is the result of five years of the Roh presidency and four years of the Lee presidency. Our society still has hope.

by Kim Su-gil

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