Beyond eternal dichotomy“There are 210 days left until the Dec. 19 presidential election .?.?. And yet, even at this late state, voters only have glimpses of the possible presidential contenders, and no understanding of their thoughts or visions .?.?. Are we going to have a presidential election with proper preparations? Or are we going to have just this white noise that constantly surrounds us?”
The above quotes are from my column published in this paper on May 24. Now there are less than 100 days left before the election, but the situation is little changed. Voters have been abandoned amid political maneuvering without discussion of real issues. Are we not going to give voters ideas to choose from?
To realize a dream, one must think. Let’s take our eyes off from the political arena and election campaign and think together about the ideas of Kim Byung-joon, Song Ho-keun and Kim Sang-jo.
They all walked different paths. Kim Byung-joon served as the chief of policy planning in the Roh Moo-hyun Blue House. Song, a sociologist, taught in a university and wrote columns and books. Economist Kim Sang-jo gave lectures and worked as the head of the Solidarity for Economic Reform. None of them joined any presidential campaign.
Looking back from our digital era, we see they each published books and research papers the old-fashioned way and their works clearly allowed readers to understand thoughts gathered under one theme. Kim Byung-joon’s “There is No President for the 99 Percent,” Song’s “Moving Beyond the Society of Dichotomy,” and Kim Sang-jo’s “Meaning and Tasks for Economic Democratization” are thoughtful tomes the voters of this era should read. They are not difficult to get through.
Kim Byung-joon starts his book talking about “useless knowledge.” Divided into set camps, we believe in many ideas with confidence, but Kim presents real cases to prove that the thoughts were in fact useless and wrong. Readers will quickly become embarrassed.
Song begins his book with the sentence, “Are you being confused?” He begins with a diagnosis that people must feel confused about where to position themselves in society because the society endlessly asks them which side they are on. The book gives comfort to me.
Kim Sang-jo explains economic democratization by saying, “Efforts to define the substantial contents of economic democratization must be warned against.” The starting point of his thesis is skepticism about both the ruling and opposition parties’ pledges about economic democratization. They sound as if they are having a true competition. Kim reveals the mistake in that idea. He actually gives a clearer idea about economic democratization.
They are experts in three different fields and they have long experiences and clear ideas. Why are they standing on the same starting line now? The reason is in Song’s book’s title. The scholars share the views that Korean society can only move forward into the future when it overcomes the dichotomy of the left and the right, the conservatives and the liberals.
Instead of talking about what he or she will do, presidential campaigns are dominated by slogans to “unite and win.” As long as politicians attack an opponent and attract votes by prompting rage, we won’t have a messiah (or president) to change our world, Kim Byung-joon concluded.
Kim Sang-jo refused to be the spokesman of any side. He said treating economic democratization as a subject of a huge discussion involving the public or a goal to be achieved won’t bring about actual changes. He said it could even be dangerous.
Then what is the answer? Song has the idea of creating a joint buffer zone between the left and the right. It will be the zone for real gains and public interest rather than ideology. It will be a zone to push forward politics to create jobs, which are a must to realize welfare and economic democratization and to share and keep those jobs. To build the zone, we must think about a coalition government, Song proposed.
Kim Byung-joon’s idea of tolerance is on the same page. He proposes a real contemplation based on tolerance toward other thoughts and other sides.
Kim Sang-jo’s arguments are also focused on how, rather than what, and he also believes a common territory based on tolerance can be found.
The Chuseok holiday will soon come and then the presidential election will approach quickly. What will the candidates present to the voters? Kim Byung-joon ends his book by saying “the people are the messiah.” He says hope lies with an increase of people who remain alert on the issues of growth, wealth polarization and welfare.
Song also puts high hopes on the choice of the voters. “How to solve the problem is a matter of choice. It is not the choice of politicians but the choice of the voters and the people. Instead of letting the politicians, obsessed with ideologies, confuse us, we must hand down our choices to them,” he writes.
We can only become voters rich with choices when we become thoughtful voters. Let’s read other people’s thoughts and polish our own. We must warn against clear-cut, simple and useless knowledge and overcome the national tendency to dichotomy and seek out common ground.
* The author is the editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Su-gil