Dine and dash administration
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Robert Rubin, who served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration, worked at Citigroup and was paid 150 billion won ($127 million) for 10 years. But when the global financial crisis occurred in 2008, he left with a severance package, while Citigroup was insolvent. Astronomical government funding was poured in, but he did not take any responsibility. “Tea Party” and “Occupy Wall Street” protests have become commonplace as Americans are angry and hurt by the Wall Street “dine and dash” culture.
If a fund manager is paid tremendous compensation and gets a high salary with a handsome retirement package regardless, there is little connection between action and responsibility. The loss is on the shareholders and taxpayers, and the fund manager gets to make money anyway. The sneaky, shameless hypocrisy and violation is the essence of the Cho Kuk case. He had led investigations and the mocking of others. He advocated for fairness and justice. Investigations into deep-rooted evils would add up to more than 100 years in sentencing. But if he has flaws, he would opt for a “dine and dash.”
What’s important is that the Cho Kuk case is not the only dine and dash example of the state administration taking interests without responsibility. The Wolseong-1 Reactor is such a case, as it is about to be permanently shut down. The administration wants to shut down a nuclear reactor whose repair costs 700 billion won and invest 100 trillion won to increase solar and wind energy generation. Kepco, which used to have trillions of won in profit, has a large deficit and more than 120 trillion won in debt. Recently, an electricity rate increase was mentioned. This amounts to transferring the burden to the citizens and shareholders.
The reservoirs in the four rivers are torn down just because a hateful president had made them. Government facilities that were built with tremendous tax money are taken down with tax money again. Income-driven growth that destroyed the working class economy and bruised alliance diplomacy are in the same context. The main product of the administration is terrible numbers, and no one is asking who’s responsible. Former minister Cho Kuk’s resignation made him a “victim unfairly sacrificed while attempting a reform.”
President Moon Jae-in believes it will help his reform of the prosecutors, but he did not apologize for causing discord. However, in general, others were blamed. Former minister Cho was defended, while the responsibility was turned to the prosecutors and the media. So no one in the Blue House or the ruling party takes responsibility. They want to move on. It is tactless to expect reconsideration of a Rubin-style dine and dash policy and a reshuffling of people in charge. The angry public sentiment divided into Gwanghwamun and Seocho-dong would not change for sure.
Nassim Taleb, an academic who predicted and warned of the financial crisis, said that the most fundamental factor causing all crises in the world is people who don’t take responsibility. In his recent book “Skin in the Game,” he cited Rubin as an example and advised not to leave the person who doesn’t take responsibility to resolve real issues. After the Rubin case, hedge funds on Wall Street were restructured to balance action and responsibility. An atmosphere of being reluctant to get into a fund unless the fund manager puts a considerable portion of his or her own wealth has sprung up.
This is needed for the state administration. The first thing is to strictly ask for responsibility. President Moon promised that if there is a mistake, he would admit it and would not cover it up with lies. Everyone sees opinion polls, but I haven’t seen such a case in this administration. He had mentioned that if national integration is neglected, a failure like the Lee Myung-bak administration could not be avoided. However, no citizen thinks we are headed for national integration. The core principle of the Code of Hammurabi carved into a stone at the Babylonian square was to take responsibility for one’s actions. In fact, most average people act according to responsibility.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 18, Page 30
More in Columns
Room for alignment
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin