Ignorance of realities

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Ignorance of realities


Jeong Jae-hong
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In the game of Go, players usually start from the corners as it is easier to command their base territory with the aid of two edges of the board. On the other hand, building a base in the center requires coverage from four sides. As a result, practicality — and efficiency — is the basic rule for professional Go players. To command greater territory, one must be agile and practical. The wisdom of the ancient game is to “first secure your survival and then go after your opponent.” To put it simply, it is unwise to attack while your own base is unstable.

From the viewpoint of Go strategy, the Moon Jae-in administration has been making one foolish move after another. It has gone the opposite way of pragmatism in administering the government. Its rash hikes in the minimum wage and enforcement of a 52-hour workweek has slowed the engine of the economy to possibly below 2 percent growth this year. The hasty phasing out of nuclear energy and speedy migration to costlier renewable energies has translated into a 928.5 billion won ($793.7 million) operating loss for state utility Korea Electric Power Corporation in the first half of the year. As a result, the potential of the world’s top nuclear reactor technology has been squandered.

Moon’s insistence on the appointment of Cho Kuk, a champion of reform in the liberal camp, as justice minister despite all the controversies over irregularities involving his family worsened social divide and conflict between the liberals and conservatives in the country.

Moon’s most unpractical — and unreasonable — policy has been related to North Korean affairs. The Moon administration remains all-understanding despite an endless cycle of missile tests by the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang and despite its belligerent and demeaning criticisms of the South Korean president. Moon appears to have unwavering faith in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in regard to his denuclearization promise.

Seoul quietly obliged when Pyongyang disallowed broadcasting or entry of a cheerleading squad from South Korea for the World Cup qualifier game against North Korea in Pyongyang on Oct. 15. During a reception Moon hosted for foreign envoys three days after the strange match — no live coverage or audience — he asked for international support for the idea of South and North Korea co-hosting the 2032 Summer Olympic Games. He could not have been more out of tune with the harsh reality.


President Moon Jae-in makes a speech at a welcoming party for foreign missions to Seoul in the Blue House on Oct. 18. He urged them to support South Korea’s effort to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics with North Korea. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The Moon administration seems to believe that denuclearization will eventually take place because it is sure of Kim’s determination to go nuclear free. In his 1957 book “The Soldier and the State,” political scientist Samuel Huntington said that in fighting a war, a soldier must pay attention to the capabilities of the opponent, not its intention, because intention can be political and fluid and therefore is hard to accurately judge.

Moon is the chief commander of the military. More important than Kim’s intentions is North Korea’s military capability. It presumably has scores of nuclear weapons that can wipe out South Korea. It has positioned long-range artillery along the border to target the capital area of South Korea while ratcheting up tensions through missile provocations. Moon has the duty to respond to North Korea’s threats based on facts. The people do not want to see their president begging for negotiations. They want their president to be open to dialogue, and yet stand firm against the North Korean threat.

According to former Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, former President Roh Moo-hyun ordered officials to study the idea of building a nuclear fuel cycle when six-party talks for North Korean denuclearization reached a deadlock in 2006. If you establish a nuclear fuel cycle — starting with mining uranium for use in nuclear reactors and then safely managing, preparing, and disposing of spent fuel — you can have the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons. “National security cannot be ensured through a sentimental hope for the end of a war,” Song said, calling for a further consolidation of our military readiness by reexamining our existing nuclear policy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 28, Page 30
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