A country never experienced
The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Moon Jae-in and his allies want to go where no government has gone before. Their differences with previous administrations are not mere matters of degree. Moon and his inner circle are bold. They intend to change the world. The core of the inner circle are the so-called 386-generation leftists. Their idea of governing is revolution or, at least, an activist experiment.
The Moon administration is even different from past liberal governments. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun adopted the rhetoric of businessmen when need be. Kim’s reforms were intended to stress the market economy for the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiation. President Roh advocated the opening of markets and pragmatism.
Now, the pragmatism of business is pushed aside, and leftist economic rhetoric of state intervention is applied. Old socialist policies are resurrected. Anti-market variations prevail. Income-driven growth is maintained. The Korean economy is chaotic and regressing. Livelihoods of the people suffer and businessmen are frustrated. But Moon’s perspective doesn’t change. On Dec. 16, he said that positive changes are happening in the Korean economy. It reflects his tenacity to change the economic order.
Kim and Roh were obsessed with inter-Korean issues. At the time, there were controversies over the management of national identity. But things that had to be defended were defended. The Moon administration’s stance on North Korea is different. It is full of servility. The national identity is full of wounds. The economic woes and inter-Korean situation spreads anxiety among the public. It is actually a betrayal of the Kim-Roh legacy.
What is the aim of the Moon administration? Clues can be found in Moon’s words. It is “to create a country that we haven’t experienced.” He did not get specific in his citing of “that country.” It remains the language of justice and equality. Former National Assembly speaker Kim Hyong-o calls it “an administration with no direction.” He said, “Half of the term has passed, but the aim and destination of where President Moon is leading the country is unclear.” Ambiguity is strategic audacity. It is the shamelessness of a dark, leftist design.
The desire of the Moon administration is provocative. Long-term rule, possession of power and system transformation are entangled in there. Execution mostly happens secretly. But recently, the work has been exposed. The tipping point was the Cho Kuk case. Former Liberty Korea Party’s emergency committee chairman Kim Byong-joon saw it like this. “The Cho Kuk case revealed that justice and fairness were hypocrisy and greed. Then, the Moon administration took off the mask and openly revealed its will to head to totalitarianism.”
This intention can be felt at the National Assembly. The electoral reforms and a special agency to investigate crimes of high-level officials are footholds to realize those desires. The 4+1 consultative group is an open collusion. The ruling Democratic Party’s tactic is a clever variation. It shares a part of power with leftist and Honam (South and North Jeolla) parties.
“Creating a country that we haven’t experienced” is the final goal. The beginning of the process is mobilizing the public. The stages are direct democracy and public forums. Dividing enemies and allies is common. Korea University professor emeritus Choi Jang-jip said that the direct democracy that Korean liberals understand is a political system identical to totalitarianism. Animosity evolves malignantly. “Political vandalism” is expressed. To the 386-generation, accomplishments, memories and historic figures of the conservatives are things to be overcome or destroyed. Founding president Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee are among them.
Strange distortions of statistical indicators continue. They believe in the effect of repeating charms. Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Hong Nam-ki and other officials are in the lead. Most citizens see the mere shabbiness of “soulless bureaucrats.” But regulation is power. It is a secret weapon of governance. It can pressure and control companies and people. The Moon administration’s real estate measures are solid, not pies in the sky. The government is collecting tax. When you own one house, you have to pay tax. The nature of tax is resistance. When the powers that be drop a tax bomb, the public sentiment rises up.
The Moon administration wants to offset the situation. The psychology of free welfare is spread. Households eligible for cash welfare are rapidly increasing. It is a combination of state intervention in the economy and populism. The intention is to create a society dependent on the government. But human psychology is ambivalent. People like freebies but cannot stand excessive taxes.
The country that we haven’t experienced is a work of many people. The words and policies of the people in the Moon administration are a shocking picture. It is full of state-intervention in the economy, leftist socialism and historical denial. A Bloomberg column called the Moon administration a “socialist government.”
Koreans have good learning abilities. The experience of Gwanghwamun Square infused the conservatives with a fighting spirit. The driving elements of modern history in Korea are fighting and winning. Industrialization and democratizations were products of struggle. It is engraved in the Korean people’s minds. Most people are asking what “the country that we haven’t experienced” means and what the destination is. Does Moon dare to answer?
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 19, Page 35