In Korea, a battle of ideas

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In Korea, a battle of ideas

Printers were essential instruments for revolutionaries during the 19th century. They were needed to disseminate the manifestos and newsletters that would garner support for their revolt. Later, in the 20th century, broadcasters served as the main opinion influencers.
Now, in the 21st century, the internet is playing that role. What is on Google Trends often proves more accurate than opinion polls.

Information is vital food for the public. Media platforms may change over time, but the role of providing information to the people to influence their opinions will always be there. Ideologies can serve as important information for society. Ideologies are complicated masses of information touching on fundamental issues like human nature, social structures and the relationship between individuals and their communities. Ideologies fiercely compete for domination of the human mind. Prevailing ideologies shape human behaviors. Elections and wars are procedural outcomes of ideological contests of the human mind. Ideologies decide the fate of the individual and society.

Ideological values are valuable to everyone. People might not risk their lives to defend their fortune but might do so for ideology. A cultural idea or practice passed down from generation to generation can command our minds just as genes control our bodies.

This phenomenon can be explained well through the recent presidential election. Candidates critical of the democracy and market economy that make up the nation’s foundation were better received by young voters than those who supported them. The misdeeds of the Park Geun-hye administration and fallen moral dignity of the conservatives were part of the reason, but they do not entirely explain their choice. Young minds have been taught by teachers with textbooks critical of the mainstream establishment.

The conservatives responded poorly to these threats. Although the ideological landscape had changed during a decade under left-leaning administrations, succeeding conservative leaders were oblivious to the shift. In his inauguration speech, former President Lee Myung-bak vowed to pursue pragmatism to go beyond ideological differences, but no one can neglect ideology. Those who think they are above ideology have an immature and contradictory ideology.

President Lee, who never cared to form his ideology, would not have thought to tend to the left-leaning ideological landscape. His successor, President Park, was elected with a slogan calling for democratization and equality in the economy, more of a socialist platform than a capitalist one. In the early stages, her administration tried to stay faithful to her campaign promise, but it later faltered. It is no wonder that the conservative parties have lost support.

The ideological compass today has turned more left than under previous liberal presidents like Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The attack on state-authored history textbooks underscores the phenomenon. Few schools chose to use the textbooks, and those that did came under heavy attack. The government did little to defend them.

The market economy is hard to understand and often goes against human intuition. Most of the world accepts it not necessarily because it is right but because it serves human nature better. Human nature was formed in primitive days. Humans formed small tribal groups and shared everything with one another. The market did not exist. Such an economic principle based on the separation of roles and on exchanges felt alien to primitive human minds. While living in a vast and complicated market, we long for such a humble community. Populism is bred on such a longing.

The young minds ready to join society must understand the market economy from their school days. It is important that they grow up learning that a free economy protects individuals from political power. If they do not build such intelligence, the foundations of Korea could be shaken. Bringing equilibrium to the ideological landscape is important so that the future generation does not grow up half-blinded with idealism.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 27, Page 27

*The author is a novelist.

Bok Geo-il
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