Toward a grand reconciliation

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Toward a grand reconciliation

“Mental meltdown” was frequently talked about the morning of New Year’s Day among more than 14.69 million people. They are the 48 percent of voters who cast ballots for opposition candidate Moon Jae-in in the December presidential election. Of course, not all of them talked about it. But some, including young people, reportedly tried to sever any ties with Park Geun-hye supporters. It was a surprise to see a university student, who didn’t seem much interested in politics, post a strong complaint on Facebook and threaten to defriend anyone who didn’t vote for Moon. Furthermore, some opinion leaders, including professors and journalists, didn’t hesitate to reveal their “mental meltdowns” after the election.

The most disconcerting thing is Internet messages urging the people to “prepare for the time to come in five years.” It must be a natural thing for politicians; They need to thoroughly examine why they lost and make changes. But how are voters to prepare for the time to come in five years? The country just elected a new president. Are they saying that the president for whom they didn’t vote is not “our president,” but only “your president?” Are they saying they will discover the mistakes of “your president” and attack her to prove that their choice was actually right and punish those you made the wrong choice?

When we watch a soccer game or a baseball game, we feel bitter when the team we cheer for is defeated. But sports has nothing to do with my actual life, no matter which team wins. In an election, the victor is not “your president,” but “our president.” She is the person who will run this country that we all are members of. It is worrisome to see some people implying that the country should remain divided until the next election.

Their “mental meltdown” appeared to have come from bitterness that they had lost an election they should not have lost. But they need to figure out for themselves why their candidate lost. They can prepare for the next election only after they understand what went wrong with this one. Recent Twitter postings showed they were treating the presidential election as if it were an Internet game. Instead of putting forth their own ideas and proposals to win, a victory is about attacking the opponent. Instead of comparing candidates to find the better one, they first decide whom they like and do everything to ensure that candidate’s victory.

Democracy is about choosing, through an election, a direction for society, including policies and who will implement them. It is a process, not a game you must win. You need to be open to dialogue, compromise and co-existence. Through this process, a good leader can be created. And yet, those suffering from the “mental meltdown” are too competitive; they cannot tolerate defeat. Many Internet postings showed they are wishing for the failure of the president-elect because she beat their candidate.

In the era of democratization, dichotomous thinking was unavoidable because procedural democracy was denied. But democracy cannot operate through only black-and-white logic. Furthermore, the binary strategy failed in the latest election. The liberals tried to attack Park Geun-hye by linking her to her father, Park Chung Hee, and her predecessor Lee Myung-bak, but it didn’t work. In other words, the attacks on the Lee administration over the past five years were also a failure. Demands were strong for new politics and the demands will grow stronger in the next election.

A video clip on YouTube of former President Park Chung Hee shows him singing a Korean popular song, “First Love.” At his mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party, the late president forgot the lyric while singing and smiled bashfully, as if he were an elderly man from a small rural town. At the end of the clip, Park Geun-hye sang the theme song for the Saemaeul (New Village) Movement. She didn’t sing a favorite song of her grandmother or her favorite pop song. Was she singing for her grandmother or for herself? Or was she singing for her father?

The video captured the prim and proper presidential daughter and that image appeared to stay with Park. The video gave an impression that the country can expect to be run honestly under the textbook principles, although it may feel rigid. Former President Roh Moo-hyun said he wanted to be the “last child of the old era.” But the incoming Park administration will actually make the best “last child of the old era.”

Former President Kim Dae-jung wrote in his autobiography about Park’s apology to him during her visit to the Kim Dae-Jung Presidential Library and Museum in August 2004. “I was happy because it felt like Park Chung Hee was reincarnated and offered a handshake of reconciliation to me,” Kim wrote. “Although it was the daughter of the dictator who apologized, it was me who had the redemption.” Because she was the daughter of Park Chung Hee, the apology was significant. The most important task of the Park administration will be to achieve grand national unity by resolving the longtime conflicts and divides that have accumulated since her father’s era. Apology, forgiveness and reconciliation are only possible when the two sides reach out to each other. We can only move forward to the future by concluding the past.
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