Elections are scarier than warJUNG HYO-SIK
The United States is not different. Its people wish for peace for their families and country in the New Year. I was nervous in the first week of 2020 that America would go to war against Iran. Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, 4,500 and 2,400 U.S. troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. The U.S. Department of Treasury and Brown University estimate that $4.4 billion and $6.4 billion have been spent in the wars respectively. Taxpayers are tired of it.
But I heard in a New Year’s debate that the United States is more afraid of the presidential election in November than a war. People are worried that the country could be ruined for another four years. I went to a seminar titled “2020 Challenges Ahead” hosted by former CBS journalist Bob Schieffer. Experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) discussed international challenges involving Iran, North Korea and China for about an hour. A question came from the audience on what the biggest challenge was.
CSIS Vice President Sarah Ladislaw said that what she was really worried about was the fight over the outcome of the presidential election this year. She claimed that they said the 2016 election was rigged, and before it was resolved, it could be repeated again. She said that they chose the party over the country in all issues, and they were fighting over the captain’s position of the sinking Titanic. It sounded familiar as Korea has a similar situation.
Senior fellow Stephanie Segal said that the United States had no room for compromise in the middle to find a solution, pointing to aggravating political polarization. It is not just about political issues like impeachment. From the Iran policy to the trade war with China, the Republican and Democratic supporters are divided into pro-Trump and anti-Trump groups. In a poll on Iran policy published by ABC on Jan. 12, 87 percent of Republicans supported Trump’s response while 90 percent of Democrats opposed it.
With the general election on April 15, Korea has a series of unprecedented events. After the investigation into former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s family, the Blue House, the prime minister and justice minister are trying to drive out Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. Two months before appointing Cho as the justice minister, Yoon was appointed as the right person for prosecutorial reforms. The parliamentary election that should be a third-year midterm for President Moon Jae-in and a test on the opposition party as an alternative is about to become a referendum on Yoon. Prosecutorial reform should be left to an extra law enforcement agency which will soon be established to investigate high-level government officials, including prosecutors and judges. Instead, someone has to take the helm. The only person to do it is the president, who has the constitutional obligation to remain neutral in elections, which does not apply in the United States.
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 14, Page 32