Mofia revival and financial crisis
Over 10 years ago, a finance minister compared reporters and bureaucrats to the crocodile and crocodile birds. They are in a dangerous symbiotic relationship. When I asked which is the crocodile and which is the crocodile bird, he refused to answer. He was a veteran: He skillfully utilized the media. For instance, he slipped details about some policy plans to the reporters. And some media would publish the news. If the public response was favorable, he would go on with the plan. If not, he would deny having made such a policy in the first place. So some reporters were wrongfully accused of writing false stories.
He championed the so-called “ad balloon” strategy. “Even the best policy is not perfect. It is bound to have some flaws, and the public would not like them. The newspaper articles filter them.” He only wanted to verify his policy through the media and was not interested whether the news became a false report or a scoop. He used the “ad balloons” when he wanted to change public opinion, when he wanted to attack enemies or when he wanted to promote someone.
Recently, he advocated his own newspaper theory in private. “First, reporters are brave enough to write a story even without knowing the details. Second, they are still so good because their stories make sense. Third, they are even better as they are mostly headed to the right direction.”
He has acquired a philosophy of life from the media. “When it makes news frequently, it becomes a fact.” When one or two newspapers mention a certain figure, other media would also write about that person, and he would end up being appointed. It may be an outcome of what’s called an “ad balloon” of the past and “big data” today.
Lately, the center of his attention is the resurrection of the Mofia, a compound word for the Ministry of Finance and Mafia. They are knowledgeable in government finance and accustomed to “the league of their own.” They were accused of bringing about the 1997 foreign exchange crisis and became forgotten from the main scene. But lately, the return of the Mofia is often mentioned in newspapers. Former officials at the Ministry of Finance have been named as the president of the Bank of National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, the head of the Korea Center for International Finance, the chairman of the Credit Finance Association, the chairman of KB Finance Group and the chairman of the NongHyup Financial Group. The former minister said each person may be qualified and each appointment is justifiable, but it is still excessive.
The public is not interested and has no way of knowing what the authorities think. However, even the public knows one thing for sure. The “league of their own” leads to inbreeding, and inbreeding ruins the system. We don’t have to refer far back to the foreign exchange crisis. We’ve confirmed the harm of inbreeding from the recent nuclear industry corruption. The minister said with confidence, “If the newspapers keep on reporting the revival of Mofia, that means Korea faces a financial crisis right now.”
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By YI JUNG-JAE