A morbid fear of losing

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A morbid fear of losing

A presidential election is as thrilling as an action movie in which the world is divided into two sides that wage an all-or-nothing war against each other. The two sides come up with strategies, mobilize their organizations and make surprise attacks to catch the other side off guard.

The movie will be over in just one more day, so you might want to enjoy the last bits of drama leading up to the climax. Once the election is over and you go back to your routine, please take away from that narrative the values of acceptance, praise, consideration and tolerance. Make sure you leave behind and ignore the lies, agitations and vengeful attacks.

In terms of personal impact, Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party are not on par with former presidents. The day before an election, the public would normally talk about one candidate, and they would frequently employ one particular word to describe him or her.

For the 1992 election, it was Kim Young-sam’s “mission,” and for the 1997 election, it was Kim Dae-joong’s “vision.” Roh Moo-hyun’s “dream” and Lee Myung-bak’s “work” were the keywords for the last two presidential elections.

Park and Moon are more business-like candidates, unlike former presidents who were more outsized. Park’s and Moon’s campaigns have failed to convey their charms to the people. So many voters are saying they will be voting for the least worst of the two.

The two camps have cited hundreds of reasons why the rival candidate should not be elected. I’ve made a checklist of the top three reasons for each.

Park should not be elected because she is the leader of an old, backward and ultraconservative cabal that has enjoyed privileges and defended its vested interests for too long. Secondly, she needs to take responsibility for the failures of the Lee Myung-bak administration as the candidate of Lee’s ruling party. Third, she is the daughter of former strongman Park Chung Hee, and as a direct result, she lacks the ability to lead democratically and the ability to communicate.

On the other hand, Moon Jae-in should not be elected because he may be swayed by the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea. Second, he was a key member of the trouble-plagued Roh Moo-hyun government and is leader of the pro-Roh group in the opposition. Third, his party has changed its stance on the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the Jeju naval base.

The list combines facts, allegations and appeals to emotion rather than reason. That’s par for the course. On Wednesday evening, whoever wins will need to reflect on where the hatred and anger of the supporters of the loser came from. A president-elect who gets too engrossed in victory and forgets to take the losing side into consideration will experience administrative failure after inauguration without exception. The checklist of charges may be handy as the winner tries to get beyond the grudges, anger and frustration of the voters who supported other candidates.

The problem is a psychological tendency to refuse to move on and come back to reality after the movie ends. Some of our politicians want to remain in the realm of fantasy, fear and panic. It is a morbid condition inspired by a subjective sense of justice denied or excessive self-pity. I am shocked some people who are supposed to be responsible and influential are leading the election as if it is some ritual of death when it should be a joyful demonstration of democracy no matter who wins.

And 72-year-old Kim Jung-tae, vice chairman of the National Integration Committee of the Park camp, said at a Gwanghwamun rally: “I am worried that Moon Jae-in will go to the Owl Rock in Bongha Village [where former President Roh leaped to his death in 2009] and follow the owl ghost to the other world,” sounding as if the outcome of an election is a matter of life and death for a candidate. Kim pretended he was worried, but he actually was putting a curse on Moon.

Meanwhile, 49-year-old Jeong Hye-sin, co-president of People’s Solidarity supporting Moon Jae-in, said at the Baekbeom Memorial: “The presidential election is a question of life and death. At the moment when the administration is not changed, some people will feel that they are waiting to die. Just as the election of former U.S. President George W. Bush determined that countless young Americans would die in Iraq, many people think we are at such a moment.” But this election is not a war with lives at stake. What we need now are acceptance and wisdom.

Let’s be wary of such sick, morbid and hysterical sentiments. They will only become obstacles to going back to our routines and to real life after the election. What should we do after the party is over? Let’s remind ourselves of the clash of thoughts and heated discussions with friends and family.

Koreans have earned a great thing from the election. We have learned the ideas, thoughts and feelings of others. The winner should absorb the ideas of the loser, and the defeated should celebrate the winner. The winning group should be considerate, and the losing group needs to accept defeat. Then, Moon Jae-in and Park Geun-hye will share victory with all the people of democratic Korea.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo and a JTBC News 9 anchor.

by Chun Young-gi
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