Solomon’s wisdom is neededKorea has become bisected over controversial Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Society has been pushed to choose between the extreme right and left depending on their support for the justice minister. Anti-government groups are heading to Gwanghwamun Square and the pro-government masses to the Seocho district, home to the highest courts and prosecution offices. The downtown plaza on Oct. 3, a national holiday, was filled with banners demanding Cho’s resignation, while pro-government forces gathered in front of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office at Seocho in southern Seoul last weekend to demand the ousting of the prosecution chief and prosecutorial reforms. Another tit-for-tat rally by conservatives is planned on Wednesday, Oct. 9, another national holiday.
The two forces are waging a contest of rally head counts. There is no sign of compromise. President Moon Jae-in must no longer keep silent. He must not tolerate the country being torn apart from the divide over Cho Kuk. The president must show his will and wisdom.
Geopolitical risks have escalated and the economy has been mired in lengthy doldrums. The president and government must devote all their energy to addressing our security and economic challenges.
In his inauguration speech in May 2017, Moon promised to become a “president for every person” and serve each and every one regardless of whether they had voted for him or not. But he has governed entirely to please his supporting base and the liberals. He kept to his progressive income-led growth policy and phase-out from nuclear reactors regardless of their damaging ramifications. He seated people entirely from the liberal league. He chose not to hear out the opposition voices.
Late President Roh Moo-hyun, his former boss and political companion, was different. He respected the voices of the opposition and bent his principles for the sake of national interests. He sought a free trade agreement with the United States and sent troops to Iraq at the request of the United States despite the risk of losing his supporters. He proposed to share power with the opposition and considered recruiting then-opposition party lawmaker Park Geun-hye as unification minister.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln remains the most revered American leader because he brought a divided country together after the civil war. He recruited Edwin Stanton, who had ridiculed him throughout his career as a lawyer, as the secretary of war.
Reforming the top law enforcement agency is important. But why has Moon become so intent on the issue after Cho’s family came under a probe by the prosecution raises questions. Few can understand why prosecutorial reform and scaling back the authority has become the top priority of his government.
Moon must come up with a solution to silence the questions and end the extreme discord. He must turn his eyes to the broader population who is opposed to Cho who is spearheading the reform while he and his family are under criminal investigation. A leader must see things in a bigger context. He must seek Solomon’s wisdom to close an unprecedented social divide.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 7, Page 30