How to consolidate power
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
President Moon Jae-in had the look of a winner. His words and facial expressions at a New Year’s press conference suggested that he was relaxed after resolving a complicated challenge. “The agency to investigate high-level public servants was installed yesterday. Structural reforms to adjust investigative jurisdiction of the prosecution and the police have been completed,” he said triumphantly. Meanwhile, the human network of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl has been dissolved. The process expanded the foundation for systemic change. The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) protested that the foundations of a leftist dictatorship were established.
President Moon pledges communication and cooperation. He keeps making the same promise — but not following through. The promises remain a political alibi. His stance on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk is affectionate. “I am indebted for having him go through such an ordeal.” Cho Kuk’s greed and hypocrisy have hurt many people, but Moon did not take into account their distress.
President Moon and his people are skilled at dividing. The other side is excluded for being part and parcel of alleged “deep-rooted evils.” Their side is embraced with tolerance and kindness. Moon’s favoritism encourages mass loyalty. It brings supporters together. Division is the administration’s way of managing the public. Hatred and vengeance are constantly produced. Meanwhile, the desire for long-term rule lives on. Ruling Democratic Party (DP) floor leader Lee In-young went a step further. “With victory in the April 15 general election, I want to accomplish a reshuffle of social hegemony that never happened in our history beyond regime change,” said he. “Hegemony” is an expression that leftist thinker Antonio Gramsci first used. Gramsci’s hegemony camp theory is a strategic doctrine for democratization activists in the 1980s. Its followers are in the judiciary, prosecution, education and cultural camps.
Lee In-young’s boastfulness is a provocative desire. “Never happened in our history” has a deep connotation. Focusing on the past is hostile. Pushing for an agency aimed at investigating high-level public officials is inspired by revenge. The background is the death of President Roh Moo-hyun. There is a grudge mentality among prosecutors because of that death. The agency is a monster because of the toxic clause that prosecutors point out. When an investigation agency detects crimes by high-level officials, it should immediately notify the new law enforceemnt agency. It reminds me of the joint investigation department of Chun Doo Hwan’s military regime. After the assassination of Park Chung Hee in 1979, the joint investigation department controlled and coordinated all investigative agencies.
The current agency to investigate high-level officials is different from President Roh Moo-hyun’s plan. Kim Dae-hwan, a labor minister in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, is sure that the Roh administration’s approach was pure. He said President Roh would have scolded and removed the toxic clause — a safety device for the powers that be. The Moon administration’s agency to investigate high profile officials is an insult to Roh Moo-hyun’s spirit.
The National Assembly process and conventions have also been broken. The LKP, the biggest opposition party, was excluded. The collaboration between the DP and four splinter opposition parties was clever. The four parties are based in the Honam (South and North Jeolla) region. In the conservative Roh Tae-woo administration in 1990, three parties merged into the Democratic Liberty Party, a union of conservative parties led by Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, and Kim Jong-pil. Kim Dae-jung’s Peace Democratic Party — the biggest opposition group at the time — was alienated. Honam was isolated. The collusive partnership of the DP and four opposition parties surrounds conservative rightists. That’s revenge 30 years after the three-party merger. Desire and vengeance for long-term rule is tangled and become solid.
The so-called “1+4” collaboration system symbolizes a breakdown of the National Assembly. I recalled the situation in Hungary. Hungarina Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the parliament works even without opposition. He is a pioneer of “legal dictatorship.” After the Soviet Union fell, Hungary was a model of democracy. Orban had been a democratic activist. After he came to power, democracy was dismantled. That’s a fatal irony.
Their methods of dominating power agencies are elaborate. The common ground is domination of the judiciary. Division of the three branches of government is broken. The prosecutors become a guard for the powers that be, and changes in the rules of elections followed. Populist benefits restructure our economic foundation. Self-support and self-reliance are pushed out. Parliamentary democracy regresses while direct democracy rises. These scenes are similar to the power domination of the Moon administration. The “coding” of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo’s judiciary, installation of the agency investigating public servants, a flexible proportional representation system, and generous tax benefits to the poor are all related.
Korea University’s professor emeritus Choi Jang-jib warns of a crisis of democracy. “The main cause is that the ruling liberals go back to the pre-democratization era and fight against history. The direct democracy that the liberals understand is same as totalitarianism,” he warned.
Prosecutor Kim Woong, author of “Internal War of Prosecutors,” is indignant. “Prosecutorial reforms are the most hateful conspiracy and regression since democratization,” he says. “Korea has entered the ranks of democratic dictatorships and leftist authoritarianism.”
Moon’s words gave me a lingering feeling. The subtitle of his New Year’s press conference was “Clear Changes.” The changes should suit all the people.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 35