A matter of framing

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A matter of framing

The author is a deputy financial news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


At a year-end luncheon in the Blue House on Dec. 28, President Moon Jae-in said that the economic failure framing was so strong that accomplishments could not be properly conveyed to the citizens. [YONHAP]

Nothing goes the way you want it to and you need to find out why — more importantly, you need someone to blame. According to Saul Rosenzweig’s theory of frustration in educational psychology, there are three possible responses: intropunitive, or blaming yourself; extrapunitive, or blaming others; and impunitive, hiding your frustration and avoiding attack.

In the third year of the Moon Jae-in administration, its Achilles’ heel is the economy. After receiving an unsatisfactory report card, the administration chose to extrapunitively respond by attacking the “economic failure framing.”

The president commenced fire. At a year-end luncheon with ruling party leadership, President Moon said the economic failure framing was so strong in society that accomplishments could not be properly conveyed to citizens. At the New Year’s news conference last Thursday, a similar stance was suggested. Roh Moo-hyun Foundation Chairman Rhyu Si-min joined in. At a JTBC debate on Jan. 2, he said the claims for economic crisis were products of an ideological alliance of conservative parties, conservative media and large corporations.

Politics is all about framing. Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. Dominating the structure is the key to victory. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff discussed framing in his book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.” He argued, “To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.”

Frames may need to be broken for change. Conversely, there is a risk of being trapped by a frame. When in your own frame, you’re unable to accept others’ positions. Lakoff also pointed this out, saying “When the facts don’t fit the frame, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.”

In Moon’s conceptual structure on the other side of the economic failure framing, various warning signs and worries about the Korean economy may not be properly heard. If the president is trapped by his frame and becomes blind to reality, Korea may witness yet another president who gives up on the economy.

Attacking the economic failure framing could make people think of economic failure more.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 14, Page 31
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