Evils left and rightVerbal bombs are flying all around. Threats are flying over the Pacific, but I am more scared of the cynical jeers in South Korea. These words disgust me like dust settling without any understanding of the explosive situation, and I am afraid that the fate of the nation is up to the people who use such language.
It is all because of shortsightedness that only sees the small flaws in others while unable to see one’s own. It is not just today’s Koreans but all people, past and present. Confucius once said, “What you don’t wish for yourself, do not do to others.” In the Bible, Matthew 7:12 goes, “Whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them.” Hinduism has the same mantra: “Do not do to others what pains you.” Thomas Hobbes in “Leviathan” wrote, “A man be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.”
It is not easy to practice, but unfortunately, Koreans haven’t learned this lesson. So evil acts are not prevented in advance, and people sneer afterward. The ruling and opposition parties, the left and the right, are critical of others and generous toward themselves. They criticize others for doing what they themselves have done in the past. Emotional fights lead to legal battles. As administrations come and go, old powers are found to be full of longstanding evils. But many claim that the eradication of evil is simply an act of political retaliation.
Like all things in life, we can make up our minds to overcome outdated practices. If the maxims don’t work, I will say it more straightforwardly. There are evils on both sides. The left can address the evils of the left, and the right can clear the evils of the right.
For example, rigid job policies can be resolved by a liberal administration because it is associated with normalizing the employment status of so-called irregular workers. If a company cannot fire an employee for poor performance and poor fit, industries will not dare to make their entire workforce regular. This could lead to companies raising wages despite decreasing productivity, and young people will have a hard time finding a job and instead work temporary positions.
A conservative administration will try to change the labor market, but failure and resistance is on course. The current administration, a liberal one, scrapped the guidelines of a past administration, a conservative one, but it could have improved the guidelines and persuaded labor groups on reform. The opposition could also cooperate with the liberals on the National Assembly Advancement Act, similar to the outreach that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made across the aisle.
What the past conservative administration should have done was not write government-approved textbooks or designate a controversial Foundation Day holiday but reformed the welfare system. It should have worked to help those in need. The liberals would have supported it, and the current administration might not have to offer new welfare programs.
After Park Geun-hye was impeached, the conservatives should have taken responsibility for the failures of her administration. When they show no remorse and only criticize the current administration, their cries are nothing but hollow.
The politicians on the left and right may have started out working for the country and its people. Now, they need to begin searching deep inside themselves and take out their own evils.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 27, Page 30
*The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.