A lesson to youthIt was one of those strange weather days. Monday, Dec. 9, was unusually warm for the winter season, and I was trying my best to look composed and professional as I ambled towards the National Assembly. Only after getting seated for the interview with the Speaker of the National Assembly Chung Sye-kyun did I realize I was sweating hard in my heavy winter coat. I kept it on to the end because I did not want to miss a single gesture or a word.
Chung is famous for his gentle facial expression, which won him the nickname, “Mr. Smile.” But today, that smile looked a bit sad when I asked him the question: What should young Koreans learn from the Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil scandal? Chung did not hesitate — “I hope the young generation will learn how to separate work and personal life from an earlier age.” Indeed, such inability to distinguish informal relationships with formal ones is detrimental as is proven by Park.
Korea has reached the epitome of cronyism, and terms like “Gold Spoons” have become widely used to refer to those born into a wealthy family with regional or school connections with people in power. We have reached the point of no return — structural change cannot be avoided. Because the Presidential Election Day is expected to take place months sooner than the original date in December, next year, serious preparation for the reformation of the Constitution is hampered. Many people are skeptical of politicians in general at this point that the constitutional reform is criticized as part of their politics game.
Regardless, constitutional reform is absolutely necessary to balance out the concentrated power of the executive branch as well as the president. Why has it been so difficult to even summon Choi, related prosecutors and Chaebols in the first place? Why do as many as over 2 million people have to convene and protest 7 times (in Seoul alone) in order to pressure two thirds of the National Assembly members (200/300) to pass the impeachment of Park? How come a president can propose bills and devise budget plans, thereby overstepping into the legislative territory? And how come a president can select an attorney general without the agreement from the National Assembly?
What allowed for an imperial presidency to take root is the loophole in the Constitution. Without the much-needed reform, the kind of environment where a good leader can arise will not be possible. The crux of the problem goes beyond corruption since there is no guarantee that the Park scandal will never recur. The heart at Korea’s comprehensive problem is the flawed Constitution that has ultimately led to cronyism as well as the deeply-embedded culture of jeong. When commitments are made based on jeong, individuals tend to form a cohesive group through a bond in the most peculiar sense.
Therefore, for a brighter future of Korea, the young generation should cultivate the capacity to separate jeong from work. Regardless of the Park Geun-hye gate, Constitutional reform needs to be discussed thoroughly until a consensus is reached among the majority of Korean people. This is a process that takes time and cannot be rushed, but considering the level of Korean citizenship and democracy compared to the last reform in 1987, engagement with people is indispensable to actualize the prospect of Constitutional reform. Youth, also, must not be swayed into the politicization of the reform and keep a wary eye on politicians that lack a clear vision.
Student at Kyung Hee University majoring in international relations