A topsy-turvy year

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A topsy-turvy year

We are perplexed at what took place this year at home and abroad. In Korea, the people had to witness President Park Geun-hye’s dramatic fall from grace in the wake of massive candlelight vigils protesting her unprecedented abuse of power. The former president is still behind bars and refuses to appear for court hearings. After her shameful ouster, Moon Jae-in took the helm of the nation after winning the May 9 snap election. In an inaugural address, Moon vowed to become president of all the people, change the outmoded politics of division and conflict, and move forward in a spirit of co-governance.

That promise collided with his full-fledged investigations of misdeeds committed by the last two conservative governments. But if Moon bases the multi-front probe on self-righteousness, it can hardly pave the way to a better future. Without a rational decision on what achievements to scrap and what to keep from past administrations, it only helps fuel the kind of exhausting ideological battle we have fought in the past.

The Moon administration came up with the novel idea of “income-led growth” to narrow the wealth gap and raise the quality of many people’s lives. Its dazzling array of populist policies include a drastic increase in the minimum wage, a noticeable reduction of work hours, and putting non-salaried part-time workers on permanent payrolls. The government’s bold plan to phase out nuclear reactors faced strong public resistance due to its shortsightedness. Populist policies may appeal to the public at first, but they can backfire.

Despite the government’s promise to make a safer society, the kind of shoddiness that led to the Sewol ferry disaster is not over yet, as we have seen in a fatal blaze at a fitness center, the capsizing of a fishing boat, and a collapsed crane.

Overseas, a heated rivalry between U.S. President Donald Trump’s America First policy and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s China Dream continues amid the near completion of nuclear warhead-tipped ICBMs by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Seoul’s improved ties with Beijing can regress at any time if the row over the deployment of the U.S. antimissile system resurfaces. South Korea will be headed into a storm if Pyongyang realizes its dream of being a nuclear power soon.

As Karl Marx famously said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” What part of this year will revisit us as farce? When Pandora opened the box, all the evils flew out, leaving only hope inside. Grabbing hope is up to us in 2018.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 30, Page 30
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