The cruelty is shocking
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The government handed over two North Korean fishermen suspected of committing mass murder to North Korean authorities. The swift move was met with strong opposition from activists in the South and abroad. Because they had been captured in the South’s territory, they fall under the protection of South Korean laws. Authorities claimed criminals cannot be identified as refugees under international law as the reason to deport the North Koreans, both in their 20s, although they are bound to face brutal torture, prison camps or even execution.
I cannot imagine their terror when their face masks were removed and they faced North Korean soldiers waiting to take them back on the border line. Yet people in the South stayed cold and indifferent, with some even sneering that the opposition to their deportation is because of dislike for the Moon Jae-in administration. We live in such madness.
The spread of cynicism is understandable as warmth is hard to find anywhere — whether it is the economic or political front. People desire only one thing — to live well and be carefree. They wish their government does well. They hope this government too becomes more honest, pays attention and acts more prudently.
Everything seems to be deceiving. Although people suffer in scarcity of jobs, the government touts improving employment and growth in decent permanent jobs. Temporary hiring of seniors through tax spending was what hiked the employment rate. Once the government money runs out, the jobs will disappear too. Pitching it as job achievement is a disgrace to the elderly who earned pocket money from leaf-sweeping work. Permanent jobs have been on the increase for 20 years, not suddenly under this government. A job which has employment for more than a year goes under the permanent category. A part-time job if maintained for more than a year could also be counted. The government has proven its knack at marketing by packaging such jobs as “decent” ones.
There has been no order in policy implementation. The government suddenly enforced a universal 52-hour workweek. After the devastating ramifications, it has been coming up with makeshift measures. When a spike in minimum wage wrecked the job market, it subsidized employers with 3 trillion won ($2.3 billion). If the government did its homework and carried out a feasibility study before hurrying with the policy actions, there would have been no need for the confusion or spending. But the government goes on with its rash action and trots out new measures to compensate for harm. The toll from its policy experiments only hardens lives of the people.
The political front is hardly any comfort. It is even worse. The opposition criticized the government’s lavish spending plan but complies with the budgeting in order not to lose votes. Both ruling and opposition camps do not care about the burden on the future generation as long as they can secure their seats. Their squandering would make the young debtors in the future. The supplementary measures to the 52-hour workweek rule such as flextime have been gathering dust for a year. They ignore the repeated pleas from small employers. The government’s makeshift measures to allowing an extension in special overtime was met with opposition for “intruding with legislative procedures.” If the legislative has done its job, the government would not have had to come up with such measures.
We too fear what lies before us when the cover over our eyes is removed. Can’t they stop experimenting and deceiving? Instead, policymakers and politicians must examine the cause of the failures. We cannot go on living in this terror of not knowing what side effects from the experiments they are conducting on us can bring about.