Making the same mistakes
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Former President Park Geun-hye is the largest contributor to President Moon Jae-in’s election victory. Just like Park, former President Lee Myung-bak had to witness her become his successor, although it was perhaps the last thing he had hoped for. The situation is no different in the United States.
After the Watergate scandal, the Republican Party suffered a defeat to a political rookie, Jimmy Carter, who promoted the importance of morality. Voters, fed up with Carter’s naive politics, turned to Ronald Reagan. In a presidential democracy, the flaws of the previous administration are often the energy that brings about the next administration.
It is interesting that Park was the successor of a conservative administration. The more Lee lost popularity, the more Park, not Moon, gained. It was Park, Lee’s opposition inside his own party, not Moon, that benefited.
As a strong political force, she opposed Lee’s major policies one after another, but still established the image of a victim to maintain her position as a presidential alternative.
She completely changed after she took office — Park loyalists quickly purged rival presidential contenders such as Rep. Kim Moo-sung.
The Liberty Korea Party is now saying that the Moon administration is following in its footsteps, with several presidential contenders from the ruling party losing power just like in the Park administration. In a political party, mainstream politicians and outsiders both exist.
In a political party, differences of opinion can exist. But in the current ruling party, the pure-blood loyalty for Moon has become absolute hegemony. It is unclear whether this was by design or coincidence, but those who are not Moon loyalists have mostly lost their political power.
And yet, Moon loyalists have not necessarily won over everybody. One of the latest controversies was about the identity of the owner of a twitter account that made messages defaming Moon and other political rivals of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung. The wife of Lee was accused of being the owner, but the prosecutors failed to indict her over alleged election law violation, while Lee was prosecuted for other charges.
The Democratic Party, which had vowed to purge Lee, is now acting ambiguously. Suspicions that Moon’s son received special treatment for a job have not been answered. The police that conducted the initial probe and supporters of the ruling party who were split over the scandal are now baffled.
The prosecution has been ruthless in their investigations to “eradicate an accumulated evil.” They investigated every possible clue from the past. The investigations into the former administrations’ political cybercampaigns by the National Intelligence Service and the Defense Security Command were such examples.
But the latest investigation does not show such determination. There will be no suspicions if the probe was fair, transparent and stern. When standards differ, suspicions grow. The police even said there was a “smoking gun” for the Lee scandal, fueling suspicions.
Actually, the Park administration collapsed in a similar situation. It could be a coincidence that political opponents of the president lost their power one after another.
When he was the leader of the main opposition party, Moon fiercely condemned the Park administration and the ruling party for their lack of communication.
You would therefore expect the administration’s top priority to be changing that practice. But the government is acting no different.
The entire special inspection team of the Blue House was replaced, but no explanation was made public. Moon lost his temper at journalists who asked questions about it.
It is because they think that only they are right, while others are wrong. The president of Korail, who stepped down over the latest series of KTX accidents, is blaming the previous administration.
The Park administration’s hands were tied because politicians were only after their own interests. Before the last general election, the Liberty Korea Party used the slogan that “Get a grip. It only takes a second to fail.”
But it actually failed to get a grip and suffered a crushing defeat, and the Democratic Party celebrated its victory, toasting that it will remain in power for the next century. It was clear that it would win enormous support as long as it did everything the opposite to the Liberty Korea Party, but this wasn’t the case.
Professor Amy Chua of Yale University said generosity is the common factor of all successful empires. Eastern and Western empires, such as Rome, the Tang Dynasty and the Mongol and British empires enjoyed their golden periods when they showed religious, cultural and racial generosity, but they started to decline when they stopped those generous policies.
“We knew we would never agree on everything, and we agreed that was okay,” Bill Clinton, the successor of the late former U.S. President George Bush, remembered after his death.
It is okay to dream about keeping the administration that would keep the Democratic Party in power for the next decade or two, but making a successful country is the first step to realizing that ambition.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 14, Page 34
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