[Viewpoint] Keeping our focus on the futureThe ideological dispute just won’t wind down. We cannot easily turn it off or make it go away. In the past, the National Security Law would have done the work. But today the law is of no use. The essential law to protect this country and its democratic system from communism and enemies of the state was exploited in the past by authoritarian regimes and employed cynically and brutally.
The new head of the largest opposition party, the Democratic United Party, accuses critics of North Korean sympathizers of attempting to rekindle McCarthyism ahead of the presidential election in December. McCarthyism in the U.S. refers to out-of-control accusations of subversion and treason against alleged Communists in the United States by hard-right political figures like Senator Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon.
But in our case today, the so-called pro-North Korean politicians and activists do not deny that they sympathize with North Korea, its system and particularly some of its beliefs, so it doesn’t really fit into the McCarthyism category. What may be more threatening are harmful forces that are quietly seeping into our society. But if we impose a harsh regimen of radiation to control and kill the malignant agents, we may risk hurting healthy cells in our social organs. What would be more effective would be to create an environment that does not breed malignant tumors.
The wearisome ideological debate on our political stage is unsettling society more than the actions or beliefs of the so-called pro-North Korean politicians. One side demands the ousting of pro-North Korean elements while the other screeches that such accusations are nothing more than a new McCarthyism. It is as if we are back in the days of the Red Scare after the liberation and the war. Comments by a lawmaker with suspicious sympathy for North Korea can be upsetting. But there is no need for the media to print his every word. It may be what the North’s followers are after.
Egypt’s Arab Spring ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak and filled the Parliament through free elections, raising hopes for democracy in the Muslim nation. But the Supreme Court dissolved the first democratically elected Parliament, stripped the eligibility of a presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood to run in the election, and returned legislative powers to the Egyptian military. Revolutionaries called it a military coup. Toppling despotism was one thing, but building democracy proved a lot more demanding.
Greece was the subject of envy for its mature democracy and prosperity. But we have seen how hard upholding the status quo can be. We should feel fortunate to have accomplished economic prosperity as well as democratic development. Tedious ideological brawling, however, underscores that the country’s politics are still underdeveloped and mired in a rigid, bipolar ideological fight. Many are disappointed at this true face of Korea’s electoral democracy.
The lawmakers with questionable ideological affinities cannot be prosecuted by the law or ousted from the National Assembly. The only way to contain them is to discourage them from prospering. Those who advocate for pro-North Korean forces are wrong. But it is equally not right to jump on the public sentiment against the liberal camp to justify the wrongdoings of past authoritarian regimes, which were overly brutal to perceived communist forces. It is shameful to witness a former general-turned-president accused of various misdeed file a suit against his in-laws to get some of his laundered money back. His predecessor, who seized the presidency through a military coup and has not paid his fines owed to the state by insisting he cannot afford to, has been seen hosting golf rounds and an extravagant wedding for his granddaughter.
Dissidents supporting North Korean ideology are still tolerated because of such shameful and impertinent behavior by people in the elite and powerful class. Much of the blame for the Greek demise is going to the elite class. European leaders are trying to battle with the debt crisis, but the Greek elite and rich are looking the other way, threatening to go overseas with their lucrative assets if they are forced to pay more tax as part of the efforts to restore fiscal finances. The rich have been busy protecting their wealth and vested rights while being indifferent to the country’s precarious future, poverty and joblessness. Greece was headed for doom.
We cannot tolerate pro-North Korean forces. But we should not be entirely preoccupied with them. There is no easy solution to a social problem. Trying to find a panacea will only generate side effects. Backtracking is one of them. The best way to crack a dilemma can sometimes be marching forward while keeping your eyes on the problem. Once headed forward, we may discover the problems have naturally died down. We may not have removed the pro-North Korean forces, but we became fully aware of their existence. Since they have surfaced, we can keep close watch on them and eventually get them under control.
*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk
by Moon Chang-keuk