The third letter
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“Prosecutor, do you know how leaders got over political crises in communist states?” asked former President Roh Tae-woo, who was imprisoned at the Seoul Detention Center on bribery charges in December 1995. He was having tea with prosecutors who visited the center as part of their investigation.
“Was there really a special secret?” asked one of the prosecutors. Roh said that he heard an interesting story from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. “Actually, it was a joke that was passed on like a myth, shared to change the mood,” Roh added.
As the first former president to be arrested in history, Roh was discontent with the succeeding Kim Young-sam administration. Roh said that the Bolshevik leaders got three envelopes when they were inaugurated — a guideline for a crisis. The first envelope says, “Blame the former government for all responsibilities.”
Did Roh want to say that former President Chun Doo Hwan and he were arrested for political reasons as a part of the Kim Young-sam administration’s efforts to correct history? There were rumors in politics at the time that Kim drew the former administration in for legal proceedings to silence the controversy over the illegal campaign fund surrounding him.
How about the Moon Jae-in administration 22 years later? The disharmony between the allegedly “pure” candlelight administration and the reality has become characteristic. They say this administration is not at fault and that the economic performance is poor because of the former administration. They even claim that the political discontent of those in their 20s originates with the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. Next year’s economic prospects are also gloomy because the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is not cooperating. The National Assembly committee on the budget is actually crippled because of Senior Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Kang Ki-jung’s rude remarks about an opposition lawmaker during an interpellation session, yet they put the blame on the LKP.
After focusing on investigations of “longstanding past evils” for two and a half years, the government has kicked off another special investigation into the tragic Sewol ferry incident. How should I interpret that? Were investigations and inspections by the prosecutors, the National Assembly, the Board of Audit and Inspection and two special investigation committees not enough?
I suspect that the “cleanup of social evils” card is used again because of the government’s political crisis caused by the prosecution’s investigation of the family of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Can they say confidently that there is no intention to mechanically balance the political damage through the prosecution? I think that prosecutorial reform and the establishment of an extra investigation body aimed at high-level public officials are simply word plays to cover up the liberal administration’s judicialization of politics and politicization of the judiciary.
The prosecutor asked Roh again. “What about the second envelope?” Roh said, “Blame — and resent — the media.”
After the Cho Kuk scandal, Moon briefly expressed regret about it and methodically blamed the media. Media beatings by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, pro-Moon pundit Rhyu Si-min, and the pro-government media are not different from the media reform movement during the era of Stalin and Khrushchev. When the Red Army and the White Army were engaged in civil war during the Russian Revolution, the media became an object of hatred and control with political purposes.
The measures on the media — led by prosecutor-turned-justice ministry officials — gave me a chance to vividly witness the adverse effects of soulless people holding swords. They did not even have the guts to defend the organization. When an opposition lawmaker shouted if they would correct the overly harsh restrictions on reporters’ access to prosecutors, the acting head of the Justice Ministry said, “Yes.” The dignity and authority were gone.
What was the third Bolshevik guideline? Roh was hesitant and said in a low voice, “Run if you cannot blame the former administration and the media.” He was said to have a smile on his face.
The testy government’s income-led growth policy is not working. Real estate prices are rising while the minimum wage hike and 52-hour workweek are incoherent. Will the administration abandon all and end if things don’t work out? The senior presidential secretary for political affairs scolded the National Assembly and the secretary for public communication has no will to communicate. The secretary for personnel affairs cannot even explain the selection standard. President Moon’s Chief of Staff Noh Young-min only wants to fight with opposition lawmakers. Where are they headed after the administration ends? What envelopes will be passed down this time?
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 8, Page 32