Against the tide
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
It is surprising to see so many people with masks on the streets. Where they got them is a question. Masks are still hard to find at drugstores. Pharmacists have put signs on their doors reading, “Out of stock,” or “Blame the government, not us!” We kick ourselves for having faith in a government that assured us that government-purchased stock would be enough to go around for everyone. Those who hoarded masks are being envied.
Amidst mask shortages, the messaging from the government has been somewhat contradictory. Some officials claimed masks are not a sure necessity while others advise the public not to venture out without one. Some advise healthier people to give up their masks to the elderly or the needy. In the meantime, the Blue House uses every opportunity to turn things to its favor. It announced the country had exported 50,000 testing kits for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) to the United Arab Emirates. It turned out the kits were not for testing, but merely medical containers to store samples. The bluffs about face masks and testing kits has only dented the credibility of the government.
The farcical maneuvers by the government and Blue House are cute compared to the second-rate show by the ruling Democratic Party (DP). The DP has been unapologetic even though it has blatantly created a satellite party merely to add some extra seats in April’s general election. The party lashed out at the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) for creating a satellite party and even filed a criminal complaint with the prosecution. But the DP now defends its own identical move by saying the satellite was a voluntary coalition of splinter liberal parties. It claims the alliance is necessary to safeguard the “original design” of the revised election law to enable minor parties to enter the National Assembly.
The roster for candidates for proportional seats from the DP’s satellite party included the youngest son of the late President Kim Dae-jung. The three sons of Kim have all been punished for various types of corruption, but they were awarded with legislative tickets. That would be rare even in countries where hereditary politics are common. What section of our society are the candidates representing anyway? The list continues. The son-in-law of former President Roh Moo-hyun was also nominated by the ruling party to run in a constituency. All lawmakers known to be close to President Moon Jae-in are safe in their bids for re-election, and over 20 former Blue House staff got nominations. Their nominations are entirely meant to cement the base for Moon.
In the Blue House meeting room, the slogan, “Make the nation livable and just” still hangs on a wall. The ruling camp has betrayed the wishes of the people who filled the streets in 2017 to demand a new government. The candlelight vigil protests called for restoration of morality and reform, not scheming and opportunism. Inviting the son or son-in-law of former liberal presidents does not make them reform-minded. The ruling party must try to uphold the genuine legacies of the two liberal administrations of the past. For instance, Kim believed in the motto that a statesman should have the eye of a scholar and practicality of a merchant.
An unprecedented tsunami is coming at us. The challenges ahead cannot be fought solely through blind loyalty to the president. Meetings led by the president are not enough to cope with the challenges ahead of us. Experts have consistently warned of the fragility of the economy and advised the government to change the direction of its economic policy even before the arrival of Covid-19. Now the passengers on the ship are afraid for their lives because they have such an unreliable crew on the bridge.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 20, Page 30