How to save a nation

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How to save a nation

Here is a hypothetical diary entry from a septuagenarian: “I can’t sit and watch anymore. I’ve been living my whole life with pride in my contributions to the economic development of this country, but I feel like my lifelong effort is being denied. I toiled away and tried not to spend a penny on food and clothes. The only fault of mine is that I’ve been tirelessly working for this country.

“The president is responsible for not keeping an eye on her acquaintances who crossed the line, but she didn’t put money into her own pocket for her sake. Nevertheless, how come people say the president should be impeached? I want to share how I feel about this with my grandsons, but they shake their heads and look at me as if they are talking to an alien. Even my son and daughter-in-law have left.

“Thus I joined the Korean flag rallies, organized by the president’s supporters. Some of the extreme banners, like “Wake up the army” and “Those who are pro-North Korea deserve death,” got on my nerves, but I tried to put up with them. I had to gather up my courage because things looked unfair for me. I thought I should stop the pro-communists and pro-North Koreans from impeaching the president. If the president is impeached, they will take the throne, and then my country will go nowhere.

“I felt better after I waved the Koran flag and shouted with other people who were on the same page as me. I don’t agree with some of the people inside my group, but I just ignored them. I will be in the street rallies next week, too.”

In contrast, here is the diary entry of a young man in his 20s: “I can’t put up with this anger rising inside me. Is this a country? The whole nation is involved in giving favors to a 20-year-old girl. Presidential secretaries put pressure on corporations, and professors and the president of a university amended the admissions rules of a college to let her in. People who are on the same side as Park Geun-hye’s secretive confidante heavily exerted their clout over the culture and sports industries.

“And what am I? I’m trying to add one more certification on my résumé so that I can land a job. In order to do that, I have to get money from my parents. No matter how I struggle with frustration and this grim reality, I can’t see anything that can save me from this.

“So I grabbed candles. I’ve been trying not to go to the candlelight rallies opposing President Park because some of the campaigners are way too extreme. They oppose deployment of Thaad.

“But I had to pluck up the courage. Even in prison, people who colluded with the president are still living the life of authorities. A string of ministers and vice ministers have been imprisoned, but the president says she still knows nothing and tries to get away with petty excuses. I will keep holding up candles until the president realizes her efforts are all useless.“

There are many ways to love one’s country and more than one way to express concern for the nation. A senior citizen and young man both worry about the future of Korea. Yet the two groups are confronting each other, and tension is going up as the final ruling on impeachment nears. The conflict between the two is aggravating. It seems like we are on the verge of a civil war. Regardless of the final ruling from the Constitutional Court, one group will explode with rage.

This country is suffering from a big generation gap, and it has added to the tangle of emotions and competing ideologies. The politicians are tasked with fixing and correcting the tangle, but they have only worsened the situation as they put priority on their own interests. What comes first for them is not the public or the country but their career. And they will go to lengths to achieve their own better future with misleading facts. The president is responsible for all of this in the first place, but some politicians are also accomplices.

Seoul Square now has to be emptied. Nobody — whether they hold candles or wave the Korean flag — should be fooled by people with sinister intentions. The president should have corrected all of this herself, but things have gone too far. It seems so obvious that she doesn’t want to solve all the problems on her own.

Now, it’s up to both parties to vacate the streets and wait until the final ruling comes out from the Constitutional Court. Both parties must respect and accept the decision. That is the wisdom of first-class citizens who have suffered through third-rate politics. That will be the way to love this country and bring it back to the way it was.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 22, Page 30

Lee Hoon-beom
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