Show some respect

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Show some respect

The time has come for President Moon Jae-in to put the brakes on the incomprehensible — and never-ending — misbehavior of his avid followers. They have gone too far attacking ordinary people, not to mention political opponents, for differences in their views of the self-righteous president. Shortly after an owner of a grocery store in Asan, South Chungcheong, complained about a decrease in sales to the president last week, an encounter broadcast on television, pro-Moon netizens denounced the owner for blaming the president and exposed private details about the merchant on the internet.

The reaction Moon’s loyalists had to a column by Korea University Professor Lim Mi-ri also can not be condoned. Even when progressive scholars and the press criticized the ruling Democratic Party (DP) for filing a complaint with the prosecution over the straightforward column, Moon’s fervent followers raised a complaint with the prosecution and ferociously attacked her on social media.

Recurrences of such shameful acts fundamentally result from a critical lack of checks and balances among the liberal camp. Before the launch of the Moon administration three years ago, internal criticism existed in the ruling party. These days, however, the DP attempts to put a gag order on opponents by taking advantage of the fanaticism of its supporters.

Such radical fandom mostly can be blamed on Moon. When his followers vehemently pilloried his rivals, including Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, on the internet for their minimal differences with Moon in a presidential nomination race, he ignored their slanderous comments, saying they were just “spice that helps make our race interesting.” Such a reaction translates into tacit approval of verbal violence from his core supporters.

As a result, an increasing number of professors, liberal or conservative, are afraid of posting their views on social media platforms for fear of relentless attacks. This extreme dichotomy — based on defining opponents as “evil” rather than accepting their challenges — does not allow for healthy internal criticism. Such totalitarianism forced even an icon of progressivism in Korea, Chin Jung-kwon, to turn away from the ruling camp. Moon’s avid followers do more harm than good for the president. If Moon does not restrain them, the country will split into two groups. In his inauguration speech on May 10, 2017, Moon vowed to “become a president for all citizens and respect his opponents.” We wonder if he does not regard the grocery store owner or Prof. Lim as one of the people he pledged to respect.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30

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